There are nearly 60 million people living in rural communities throughout the United States. Slightly more than one-third of parishes are located in rural or “non-metropolitan” areas as designated by the U.S. Census. Many priests in rural communities are now ministering to two to four parishes, driving long distances to provide the sacraments to the faithful.
At the same time, there are many young couples with families who are rediscovering the value of raising a family in a rural setting. Unfortunately, there are very few programs in the Church today focused on revitalizing the faith of rural Catholics and equipping them with leadership skills to lead small group discussions in the Church’s teaching for the purpose of entering into a deeper relationship with Christ and His Church.
CRL provides a program that equips and develops Catholic lay leaders in rural communities who are able to lead small groups through the Holy Scriptures, Papal Encyclicals and the Catechism. The goal of this program is to revitalize the faith of Catholics in rural America in the spirit of the New Evangelization and Saint John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation, The Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People (Christifideles Laici), which highlights the role and calling of the laity in the Church. The outcome of this program is more Catholic lay leaders in rural communities who are able to lead small groups through Catholic social teaching, putting their faith in action through service, and transforming their communities.
Following the input and advice from rural priests, bishops, adult faith formation directors and seminarians, CRL initiated the program in the Diocese of Winona, MN in 2011 with approximately 22 participants in the program. “The program certainly supported what I was trying to do in the parishes in terms of adult faith formation,” said Fr. Timothy Hall, former pastor of the St. Adrian parish cluster in Adrian, Minn. “The program bridges the gap between Scriptures and the Church’s teachings. I wouldn’t change a thing in terms of content.”
CRL has since expanded the program into the Dioceses of Sioux Falls, SD, St. Paul-Minneapolis, MN, New Ulm, MN and Cheyenne, WY. Each site is composed of two to four parishes. We currently have over 100 participants from these dioceses, led by 20 trained Lay Leaders.
For more information about bringing this program to your diocese and parish, please email Jim Ennis.
Components of the program:
- With the support of the Bishop, work with the local priests to recruit leaders to participate in the leadership training sessions.
- Conduct initial leadership training retreat for all of the leaders to renew, deepen, and revitalize their faith and learn how to facilitate a study and discussion of the program materials.
- Small group leaders recruit participants from their church to meet regularly to pray, discuss/work through a prescribed set of materials, and share “best practices” for practically applying faith to everyday life. Sessions are usually 6-8 weeks. CRL provides materials for each session.
- Periodic small group leader training meetings led by CRL via Skype.
- On-going support to group leaders via phone by CRL Lay Leadership specialists.
- Periodic site visits from CRL to assess progress and get feedback from leaders.
Sessions Currently Offered Include:
Module I: Love of Christ
- St Paul’s Letter to the Philippians
- Benedict XVI, Encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God is Love)
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Dignity and Vocation of the Human Person
Module II: The Body of Christ
- St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians
- Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi (On the Mystical Body of Christ)
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Human Community and God’s Salvation
Module III: Law and Grace
- The Letter of St James
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Ten Commandments (1-5)
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Ten Commandments (6-10)
Module IV: The Role of the Holy Spirit
- The First Letter of St. Peter
- John Paul II, Encyclical Dives In Misericordia (Rich in Mercy)
- In the School of the Holy Spirit by Fr. Jacques Philippe
Module V: Following Christ
- The Life of Joseph (Genesis Chaps 37-50) Part 1
- The Life of Joseph (Genesis Chaps 37-50) Part 2
- Into Your Hands, Father by Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen
Module VI: Power of Prayer
- Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina by Dr. Tim Gray
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Christian Prayer
- John Paul II, Encyclical Rosarium Virginis Mariae (The Rosary of the Virgin Mary)