Degree of Faith

July 8-21, 2004
Degree of Faith
By Kelly Homan Rodoski/ SUN contributing writer
LIMEX Program Continues to Grow in Syracuse Diocese

An anniversary celebration that marked 10 years of the Loyola Institute for Ministry Extension (LIMEX) in the Diocese of Syracuse began with a powerful prayer service in which four LIMEX alumni, one from each region of the diocese, came forward to pour a pitcher of water into a fountain. The water from around the diocese was mingled to symbolize new life, baptism, service, connectedness and growth. It was also representative of the mingling of spirits that has taken place among the LIMEX graduates over the past 10 years.

The celebration, held at Justin’s Grill in East Syracuse on June 21, brought together many of the 108 graduates of LIMEX, from the first graduates in 1994 to the most recent graduates who received their certificates that evening. Among those attending were Gerrie Kaluzny, the former diocesan Director of Religious Education who established the LIMEX program in the diocese; Bishop Thomas Costello, a strong supporter of the LIMEX program; and Dr. Mark Markuly, executive director of the Loyola Institute in New Orleans. Bishop James Moynihan, who was out of town, sent along his prayerful best wishes.

A graduate level formation program for catechetical and other lay leaders, LIMEX was developed by Loyola University in New Orleans and brought to the Diocese of Syracuse in 1990 by Kaluzny. That year, using an adult education model, 10 groups were formed and led by a Loyola-trained facilitator. The curriculum includes nine core courses, with each course consisting of 10 three-hour sessions; two focus courses which concentrate on a specific area of ministry, such as Religious Education, Small Christian Community Formation or Christian Spirituality for Pastoral Ministry; and a synthesis seminar. Through their studies, group members meet weekly with prepared written responses to Loyola lectures and additional readings to connect practical theology, Scripture, moral theology, sacraments and ministry through the lens of the member’s own faith journey, the social and cultural contexts of their lives and of the institutional church. At the conclusion of each course, participants are required to write a paper connecting the insights they gained with their ministry. “Within the three-hour session, they had ‘unpacked’ all they have read, heard and understood,” said Cathy Cornue, religious education director for the Eastern Region and the diocesan liaison with LIMEX.

The commitment of the LIMEX graduates is further underscored by the fact that New York State would not — and continues not to — certify LIMEX as a graduate degree program, as it is in other states around the country. Rather, it is offered as a graduate level continuing education certification in religious education, pastoral ministry and Kingdom ministry. Even without the promise of a degree, participants have forged ahead in their LIMEX journey. “Many decided that the initials after their name were not important,” said Cornue. The first 50 participants received their LIMEX certificates in 1994, setting the stage for the scores of participants who would walk the journey after them. During the June 21 celebration, the LIMEX graduates and representatives of the two current groups in process in Cortland and Binghamton spoke passionately of their experiences and about the bond that formed among the group members as they walked the journey together. They reflected on a spectrum of experiences, from breaking bread together to studying by candlelight due to a power outage to holding sessions in the hospital where a member of the group was being treated. Each group determined its own pace based on the experiences along their collective journey — some finished in three years, another completed the program in six years. Group members supported each other through births, deaths, and life struggles. They reminisced about the sacrifices that some people made to participate, such as a widow who took a third part-time job or the woman who sold one of her family’s cows to pay for the program. They also remembered deceased group members, particularly Ursula Martin, whose family was present to receive a towel, which all graduates receive as a symbol of the call to service.

Pam Burns, a parishioner of St. Mary’s in Rome and a 1994 LIMEX graduate, reflected that in her group of 11, five members were named Kathy. That similarity aside, the group was a diverse mix of ages and experiences in ministry. “We were the people in the trenches,” she said. “In coming together, we grew and grew, and continued to grow after graduation.” Kaluzny said she felt the evening was full of positive energy and was “an earth-shaking moment for the Diocese of Syracuse,” one she likened to the birth of her first grandchild. “I believe each of you has a God story in you, and you needed a place to tell it,” she said. Kaluzny remembered the struggles to plant the seeds of LIMEX in the diocese, the disappointment of hearing the state’s decision not to grant a degree and the financial hardships that many faced to participate in the program. She also remembered how she marveled at how the participants embraced LIMEX and worked so hard to build community and live their faith. “You are the grace God has chosen as the church moves into uncharted territories,” she said. Bishop Thomas Costello has been a strong supporter of LIMEX over the past decade. He told those gathered at the evening celebration that a recent study released by the National Association of Church Personnel Administrators (NACPA), with which he is involved, said that 49.1 percent of diocesan professional and administrative leaders are women. The majority of the LIMEX graduates are women. In 1998, NACPA said that women would advance in the church when the church recognizes and supports their gifts and promotes greater collaboration. “I think there has been a change in the church’s posture, and if that is indeed the case, the challenge we have is to identify and educate women to fill these positions,” he said. Bishop Costello acknowledged the hardships and personal sacrifices that many people had to make to participate in LIMEX. He credited pastors, particularly Father Dan DeLorme of St. Margaret’s in Homer, for helping their parishioners bear the cost of the LIMEX program. Several St. Margaret’s parishioners have graduated from LIMEX.

“You have been formed not by what you have learned but what you have become,” said Bishop Costello. “You preach what you practice, and have already made a tremendous difference in this local church.” Syracuse LIMEX graduates and participants are making a difference not only locally, but also nationally, said Markuly, the director of LIMEX. The program currently exists in 28 states and more than 50 dioceses in the U.S., United Kingdom and Belize. There are more than 3,400 graduates worldwide.

“When I came on board a year and a half ago, everyone talked about Syracuse,” Markuly said. “You are the model and are well-known for taking this mission to a serious and systemic level.” Four LIMEX graduates in the Syracuse Diocese are the first to receive post-graduate certificates of continuing education from Loyola, which were presented by Markuly. They are Connie Armstrong, director of religious education at St. Margaret’s in Homer; Cathy Cornue; Kathy Meus, director of faith formation at St. Augustine’s in Baldwinsville; and Sally Millick, pastoral associate at St. Leo’s in Holland Patent. Markuly pledged that the degree designation was an issue that he plans to pursue with the New York State Board of Regents.

For more information on the LIMEX program, call Cathy Cornue at (315) 797-4030.

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