Beginning July 1, the new Emmaus Institute will offer diocesan-wide opportunities for training and support in evangelization, catechetics and the accompanying of others on the journey of faith. Diocesan leaders are enthusiastic about the holistic process of formation that the Institute will provide. Katie Dawson, director of Parish Evangelization and Faith Formation says, “The process of formation will incorporate a retreat process, a mentoring structure and training in discernment and accompaniment, as well as the doctrinal and theological learning of workshops and classroom structure. It is providential that in this moment, when we are in need of online options to serve the mission, the Emmaus Institute has already partnered with Franciscan University’s Catechetical Institute for on-line teaching.”
Established by the Diocese of Orange, the new Institute emphasizes a path of formation that will include spiritual, theological, and pastoral studies for the entire diocese, but especially for catechists, Catholic school teachers, and parish catechetical leaders serving children, teens and adults.
Director for Evangelization and Faith Formation, Fr. Al Baca believes the process of formation through the Institute will serve anyone who wants to grow in the knowledge of Christ and His Church.
The name of the Emmaus Institute refers to the story of two disciples who recognized Jesus as they journeyed to Emmaus (Luke 24:32). With hearts “burning” from their conversation with Jesus, they returned to Jerusalem to proclaim His resurrection.
“This image is critical to the vision of the Emmaus Institute,” says Fr. Baca. “We want to encounter Jesus anew, allow Him to set our hearts on fire and be equipped to proclaim the Good News to all we meet. This is what it means to be missionary disciples.”
Building on the longtime work of the Institute of Pastoral Ministry (IPM), which provided formation of catechists for many years, the new Institute is particularly focused on equipping catechists for mission in the 21st century, in a post-modern world that needs not only catechesis but a fresh proposal of Christ and His Church. This is the context of the Diocesan Strategic Plan that calls for a strengthening of the Diocese’s efforts in evangelization and faith formation.
“In the course of our research toward relaunching a training institute we became aware of Franciscan University at Steubenville’s new catechetical institute and we partnered with them to help create our program in parish ministry,” Fr. Baca says.
“When given the mandate to implement a new catechetical institute by July 1, we wanted to embrace the aim of the strategic plan to develop missionary disciples.” Fr. Baca continues, “This extends the new call from Pope Francis to enhance the New Evangelization and arm our teachers and catechists with conviction and fire to bring the faithful to the deep riches of our Catholic tradition.”
More than 100 priests, consecrated religious, deacons and laity will be involved as teachers in the new Institute.
“We took a lot of time to go through the curriculum,” adds Dawson. “The Summer Institute courses were to begin in June but then the pandemic hit, so that forced us to look for a new way to do the work of certification and evangelization.”
“Everything about the Institute will emphasize evangelization,” notes Fr. Baca. “We want Catholics to receive a great education and the ability to communicate not only the teachings of our Faith, but the living Jesus behind those teachings. That is essential for effective evangelization and faith formation.”
The Emmaus Institute, following the California Conference of Catholic Bishops, will offer a path, which emphasizes personal witness in addition to formal training.
Working within the diverse demographics of the Diocese of Orange, the new Institute will offer courses in Spanish and English.
“If something needed is not offered,” Fr. Baca says, “we can customize our platform with teachers from our own Diocese. Many are asking good questions about God and faith right now during the pandemic and this can be an answer to a lot of those questions. The Institute will help people understand better their faith; what and why they believe.”
Depending on the pandemic, the Institute plans to offer live classes this fall and in the spring of 2021 with homegrown teachers who are ready to jump into Emmaus. In addition to formal classes, the Institute will soon offer a mentorship program for learners, giving them someone to accompany them as they learn about Christ and our Catholic faith. To learn more about Emmaus and registration for courses, please visit: https://www.rcbo.org/group/emmausinstitute/