Lay ecclesial ministers commissioned

Twenty-two graduates of the diocese’s Formation for Ministry program were commissioned as lay ecclesial ministers in a ceremony celebrated at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse Sept. 21.

   Formation for Ministry is a multi-year program of education, training, hands-on experience and spiritual preparation for adult Catholics, culminating in certification to serve the Church in a specific ministry, such as liturgical, youth or pastoral ministry. Candidates for the program are recommended by their pastors or the director of a diocesan institution. Once commissioned, lay ecclesial ministers are asked to give three years of service to their parishes or sponsoring institutions.

    “I think it’s important that we find new ways to serve the Church because there are new needs,” said Father Charles Vavonese, director of the Formation for Ministry program. “Having a number of people who are trained to collaborate is very reassuring for the diocese. There’s a little bit of freshness, a little bit of a different perspective, and a willingness to work with pastors to serve the people. It’s a way of saying the pastoral needs are always going to be met.”

   After Bishop Robert J. Cunningham had conferred each of the new ministers their certificates, Denise Egan, a parishioner of Pope John XXIII Church in Liverpool commissioned for ministry in social justice/parish outreach, offered a reflection on behalf of her classmates.

    Egan began with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Recalling the lessons learned and the transformations that took place over the course of the program, Egan noted that “each one of us commissioned today is an integral part of this journey. We don’t know what the structure or the needs of the individual parishes are going to be in the coming years. We are the Church and we are facing challenges as the faces of our priests and religious are becoming worn with age. Our roles may change, our responsibilities may vary. What will remain constant is God’s love for people and the Church itself. Through the Formation for Ministry program, we have been given the tools to work with the Church through this journey.”

   A public health nurse, Egan began volunteering her services at the Poverello Health Clinic at Assumption Church in Syracuse several years ago, eventually becoming involved with the soup kitchen and food pantry there as well. When she saw an ad for the Formation for Ministry program in her parish bulletin, “It just wouldn’t go away,” she laughed after the ceremony. Egan ultimately followed the call to the program, completing it in three years. Though many people find their ministry through the program, she noted, she came to the program through her ministry. Now commissioned, Egan said she plans to continue her ministry in the programs at Assumption and looks forward to finding ways to help her fellow parishioners share their gifts as well.

   To learn more about the Formation for Ministry program, visit the diocese’s website at or contact program director Father Charles Vavonese at or (315) 470-1491.

   For more photos of the commissioning ceremony, visit



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