Accepting the invitation to work full-time in ministry felt like coming home. My initial arrival into the full-time ministry world, however, was overwhelming at times. Thankfully, there was a wise teacher, boss, and mentor, Charles, to walk alongside me and “show me the ropes.” As I look back on those first six months at the Diocese of Baton Rouge, I can name four things that Charles was intentional about teaching me that I make sure I take the time to teach others who are new in ministry.
- The language of ministry: The acronyms were hard to keep straight—DRE, CRE, NCCL, NCEA, RCIA, NDC, GDC, etc. Words such as faith formation, evangelization, and catechesis were words I heard in passing but did not understand fully until working in ministry. Charles took the time to educate me on the meaning of the acronyms and the key terminology in our ministry language through answering my questions and having me read articles, books, and Church documents.
- Exposure to a wide variety of programs: A mandate of my job was participating in a multitude of programs and course offerings, even if they did not directly relate to my role. My mentor’s mentality was to make sure I had a broad understanding of the Catholic Church, especially in the realm of faith formation. Because of this belief, I was encouraged to attend the basic certification courses that our catechists took, to participate in the North American Forum for the Catechumenate, to attend Vacation Bible School workshops and workshops on whole-community catechesis. To this day, I understand faith formation in a whole different way, because I saw the multiple methods that can be used. I am better able to minister to and with people, because I understand their backgrounds.
- Offices within the diocese: Our office, the Christian Formation Office, existed in a Secretariat with four other offices. As a newbie in full-time ministry, I was invited to help and participate in the programs that the other offices within the Secretariat offered. This gave me exposure to programs that were offered by the Marriage and Family Life Office, the Evangelization Office, the Youth Office, and the Office of Worship. The overlap in the missions and ministries allowed me to understand the interconnectedness of the various ministries within our Church. It also gave me the knowledge to understand where to point people when they are seeking a certain program, and it helps me encourage collaboration between ministries in my work.
- The physical layout and make-up of our diocese: Part of my initiation into my job was a lesson on the structure of the diocese, including the various offices, councils, and deaneries. I was also given the opportunity to attend meetings in the various deaneries to meet priests, DREs, youth ministers, and catechists in the regions of our diocese. This helped me understand the ministry challenges in rural areas. It also gave me an understanding of the way things work internally.
While at times absorbing all the new information felt like trying to drink water through a fire hose, I draw on this knowledge daily in my continuing ministry work. I am thankful for my ministry mentor, and I believe we all have the call to mentor people who are in ministry for the first time.
Do you have a mentor in ministry? How has that person helped you along the way? How might you be a mentor to others?
My mentor was a youth minister in my Diocese and then she did faith formation where I live. After I got my Master degree, I did a year of service and then I became a DRE. She became my mentor officially by the Diocese, but I knew her before that so it wasn’t a big change.
She was the person I could call to ask questions to. The information you mentioned above is the easy stuff! I called her to share stories about Church ministry because it can be frustrating! I used her to talk about families who played the system to “get” their kids a Sacrament, families who we never seen in Church, families who we always seen in Church but knew better than any staff member and Bishop, frustration with staff who put the kids last on their agenda (ex. getting space, getting current books and resources), etc.
She’s the reason I worked in ministry for seven years because it is a tough job.
My last conversation with her was when I talked to her about going back to school for another Master (this time in education). She died in a car accident a few weeks later.
I know she touched so many lives both in ministry with the teens, kids and with me. She did ministry in a very natural way… it was just part of her. She is one of those inspiring people in my life.