“Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.” This request from Psalm 119:66 inspires all to continually seek knowledge and information on our faith. This request is exactly what the Diocesan Institute for the Diocese of Harrisburg works to fulfill.

“The Diocesan Institute for Catechetical and Pastoral Formation provides academic and pastoral formation for adult Catholics involved in service to the Church, as well as those seeking personal enrichment,” said Ryan Bolster, Director of the Diocesan Office for Adult Education and Catechist Formation. Bolster oversees the Institute and its programing. “The Institute assists the laity in their lifelong journey of faith formation by providing opportunities for them to deepen their understanding of Sacred Scripture, Catholic theology and authentic spirituality, and by enabling them to develop the necessary skills to become more effective ministers in the service of the Catholic faithful in the Diocese of Harrisburg.”

The Institute, which is supported through the Diocesan Annual Campaign, is open to all adults who wish to learn more about the Catholic faith. There are very modest registration fees, which are used to defray the cost of the instructors.

“Courses are offered at the Diocesan Center and at parishes and schools throughout the Diocese,” Bolster said. “Many are also available via webinar, allowing for live, remote participation. Because the webinars are recorded, they are also available for viewing at a later time.”

According to Bolster, there are a wide range of class topics offered through the Institute.

“Courses covering the basic teachings of the Catholic faith are offered (e.g. The Creed, Liturgy and Sacraments, Morality, Scripture, Prayer), as well as methodological courses for those who teach the faith,” said Bolster. “The Institute offers more specialized formation courses for those who are involved in various types of parish ministry (e.g., youth ministry, adult education, R.C.I.A.). Lastly, elective offerings on a wide variety of topics related to the Catholic faith are offered.”

Evangelizing through Education

Many courses in the Diocesan Institute are available via webinar, allowing for live, remote participation from the comforts of home.

Many courses in the Diocesan Institute are available via webinar, allowing for live, remote participation from the comforts of home.

Before ascending into Heaven, Jesus instructed His disciples to make disciples of all nations, or to teach.

“From the beginning, teaching what Christ Himself handed on to His Apostles has been an integral part of the Church’s continuing mission to make disciples. From then until today, by Christ’s design, the bishops, successors of the twelve Apostles, are responsible for teaching the Catholic faith. The Diocesan Institute exists to help form those in our Diocese who assist Bishop Gainer in the Church’s mission to make disciples,” said Bolster.

Dan Morrow is one of those who has participated in the Institute.

“I have found the courses to be well structured. The information is presented in an easy to understand fashion with ways that we can apply it to our lives. The recorded versions of the course are nice because they include video recordings of the instructors teaching the lesson with power points included,” Morrow said. “As a student you also have access to a variety of supplemental materials. The instructors also communicate in a timely manner if you have questions.”

Morrow added the Institute is an important program for the Diocese because, “it provides teachers with content that directly impacts their teaching. It is also very convenient as teachers can opt to work on the course at home which can fit around their busy schedules.”

Bolster continued that, “as important as it is for those who teach the faith to ‘know their stuff,’ that’s not nearly enough. When it comes to the person-to-person business of making disciples for Christ, most effective are those who witness to the truth of what they teach with their very lives.  They don’t just teach the faith – they live it for others to see. The Diocesan Institute assists Catholics in assuming their God-given responsibility for personal lifelong faith formation as Disciples of Christ, in the service of making disciples.”

 You Make a Difference

The Diocesan Institute is one the many programs supported by the Diocesan Annual Campaign. Through the support of the laity across the Diocese 15 counties, each member is helping fulfill the Lord’s command to “go and make disciples.”

“The Church teaches us that adult faith formation takes precedence over all other forms. This is so because adults are in the best position to live the demands (of the) Gospel to the fullest and thereby serve the Church’s mission of proclaiming the Gospel to the world,” said Bolster. “And when it comes to passing on the faith, parents, teachers and other adults cannot give to children and adolescents what they themselves do not have. As such, adult faith formation is vital to the life of Church, and the Diocesan Institute provides such formation in our local Church.”

To view the current schedule of Diocesan Institute offerings, visit the Institute’s page https://www.hbgdiocese.org/adult-faith-formation/diocesan-institute/. For information about the Diocesan Institute or obtaining catechetical certification in the Diocese of Harrisburg, contact Ryan Bolster at 717-657-4804, ext. 225, or rbolster@hbgdiocese.org.

To learn more about the Diocesan Annual Campaign, including how you can support the important ministries of the Diocese, please visit www.hbgdiocese.org/giving/diocesan-annual-campaign.

By Rachel Bryson, M.S., The Catholic Witness