Claire Long, Cynthia Joseph and Paul Hughes celebrated three years of lay formation at Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish on Pentecost Sunday. Photo by Evan Boudreau

Celebrating lay leadership with the sound of music [w/ audio]

  • May 31, 2012

TORONTO - Three years of lay formation training was celebrated on Pentecost Sunday at a quasi-graduation ceremony for 66 people at Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish.

During the afternoon event, adults from 30 Archdiocese of Toronto parishes were recognized for their leadership accomplishments, dedication to the community’s faith and personal sacrifice of time.

“We (zeroed) in on basically the foundational foundations of the faith to try and help people understand what it is the Church actually teaches,” said Bill Targett, director of the office of formation who launched the project in 2009.

“If you have general questions about your faith and where it fits into your life here are some people who’ve spent some time looking at these things and can offer programs at the parish.”

The program launched after Targett sensed there was a yearning among average parishioners to better understand the teachings of the Church.

With priests already heavily burdened, Targett turned to parishioners for help.

“The biggest, or most important, component is (that) we asked pastors to nominate parishioners,” said Targett. “So we’re dealing with not just interested lay people who’ve taken an initiative on their own but interested lay people working in cooperation with the pastor.”

The reasoning is simple, said Targett.

With about 7,500 people in an average Toronto parish, priests can’t possibly deal intimately with each person. But working through specially formed lay support people, a priest can reach out to more people and better understand what is happening in their church.

Paul Hughes is one of the new lay formation leaders. He said he “was very overwhelmed to be chosen,” by Fr. John Mullins, pastor at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Bramalea.

“It helps the parish priest,” he said.

“They have a very heavy responsibility and if they choose to use us, then I think we can be of assistance to them.”

Already Hughes has facilitated a six-week course on knowing God better and will offer an upcoming 10-week course on Catholicism following the Thanksgiving long weekend.

Hughes has also been an active member of his local outreach group, Communion to the Sick, as well as a eucharistic minister.

“I’ve been a good Catholic but I’m nothing special,” said Hughes, 67.

As part of the May 27 ceremony, more than 300 musicians come together to sing praise.

Their musical tribute lasted 45 minutes and an extract is embedded below this article.

The start of the next lay formation certification course has not been established, but various independent programs are being planned for the fall.

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