Renée Romance receives her certificate from Bishop Douglas J. Lucia. With her are her
supervisor, Andrea Schaffer, Associate Director of Faith Formation, Southern Region, and Father John P. Donovan, Pastor, Our Lady of Sorrows Church, Vestal. (Sun photo | Chuck Wainwright)

Twenty lay ecclesial ministers receive their commissions at cathedral

Father Clifford H. Auth, JCL, says the ministry of lay ecclesial ministers has multiple layers.

“Deb [Krisher], Amy [Casper] and I recognize that Formation for Ministry calls us to serve others in the Church, in our communities and in the larger world. This program prepares candidates to hear, discern and accept that call,” Father Auth, pastor of the canonically linked parishes of St. Augustine and St. Mary of the Assumption in Baldwinsville, says. Krisher is the Pastoral Associate at St. Augustine; Casper, at St. Mary of the Assumption.

Twenty people were commissioned as lay ecclesial ministers by Bishop Douglas J. Lucia on Sept. 26 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse.

Formation for Ministry is a two-year program of human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation leading to commissioning by the bishop as a lay ecclesial minister. Candidates take courses, participate in retreats and workshops, and participate in supervised ministry in their parish or diocesan office. Commissioned lay ministers are authorized to serve publicly in the local church in their area of ministry in collaboration with the pastoral ministry of bishops, priests and deacons. Formation for Ministry is open to any adult in the diocese who wishes to grow in faith and service. Interested individuals can contact the office at 315-470-1491 or email Eileen Ziobrowski, Associate Director of Formation for Ministry, at to learn more.

“All Christians are called to be Disciples of the Lord; Baptism is this great commissioning,” wrote Father Zachary Miller, Pastor of Christ the King Parish and Pope John XXIII in Liverpool. “It was in Jesus’ life in proclaiming the Kingdom of God that he recognized that in spreading the Gospel message it wasn’t meant for one singular person or a small group, the Gospel message is entrusted to everyone.

“The message started with the Apostles, but soon it was passed on from one generation to the next. As a Pastor this is the importance of lay ministers to help keep the Gospel message alive and to continue evangelization through all the ministries we are called to offer in our parishes.

“With lower numbers of priests, we need the assistance from the people of God to keep the mission of the Church going. The greatest gift someone can give is a willingness to serve others. The Formation for Ministry program is important in the diocese because it helps individuals to recognize their gifts of ministry and receive proper training to effectively minister within our parishes. We are grateful in the Linked Parishes of Christ the King and Pope John XXIII to have individuals willing to share in ministering to one another.”

Krisher wrote: “Over the years, parishioners from both St. Augustine’s and St. Mary of the Assumption have invested themselves in this process and have been commissioned. While they serve within their own expertise of training, it is their enthusiasm and evangelical spirit that pay the greatest dividends.”

Casper wrote: “This weekend we are blessed to celebrate the commissioning of three new lay ministers: Dave Nesbitt, RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults); Kerry Read, Social Justice; and Renée Romance, Adult Formation. While these ‘evangelizers’ have been serving at St. Mary’s as they pursued certification, both parishes celebrate their discernment of our ‘Universal Call to Holiness.’”

The Sun had asked some of the candidates to write about why they got involved in FFM and asked them to share some highlights of their experience in the program.

Here are their responses:

Saundra Macidyn

St. Mary of the Assumption


I work for the Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse with the Hope Appeal.

My interest in the Formation for Ministry program began when I was hired as an administrative assistant here at the diocese with Father [Charles] Vavonese who was the director of this program at the time. So, as I became familiar with this program and saw the courses that it entailed and the positive feedback from the students, I decided to enroll. I also wanted to learn more about my faith and feel more comfortable reading the Bible.

I learned so much through taking courses, doing assignments, attending workshops and retreats and sharing my faith with other students—all this has changed my prayer life tremendously.

Scripture was my first class which involved opening the Bible and learning what the Psalms and Gospels meant in the Old and New Testaments. According to our diocesan mission, which is evangelization, the first phase is to know our faith and these courses really helped me to gain knowledge of the Truth.

I have two favorite courses: Evangelization and Collaborative Ministry.

Why these two?

Well, back in 2014, Mary Hallman introduced herself to me and I began to volunteer with the Evangelization Ministry events through the diocese. This is how I became very interested in the Evangelization Ministry.

As for the Collaborative Ministry course, I strongly feel that all ministries should work together to bounce ideas off one another, support each other and help volunteer efforts among the ministries using everyone’s spiritual gifts. Collaboration is key.

I think I enjoyed the Discernment of Gifts workshop the most because it helped me to figure out what my top five spiritual gifts were and how to use them within my parishes. Because once you know what your gifts are, then you can see which ministry is a good fit to join.

Right now, my pastor and I are trying to figure out where my spiritual gifts can be utilized within our three parishes. Taking the Discernment of Gifts inventory helped me to determine what my top five spiritual gifts are: Prayer, Evangelization, Faith, Hospitality and Service. I spoke with my pastor about these gifts and a good fit for me right now would be to become part of the RCIA team at our three parishes.

Participating in the program has increased my prayer life in the sense that “intercessory prayer” is my focus right now. Discernment is the first step in finding one’s vocation. We as the “diocese family” have been praying this year for an increase in vocations which includes priests, religious life, deacons and laity.

I am presently discerning becoming a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites. This order is committed to prayer and apostolic service; its mission is to encourage spiritual growth to all who are looking for a deeper union with God.

There are three stages in this formation program which results in a six-year commitment followed by a lifetime commitment by the “Definitive Promise.” I am excited about this new path that I am walking upon in my spiritual journey. Please pray for me during my discernment. I will be praying for your vocation as well.

James Morris 

Sacred Heart


I became involved in the FFM program primarily to learn more about my faith and how to help others understand our beliefs and traditions. The real issue for me was one of frustration. My daughter had given my wife and me a subscription to “The Word Among Us.” I started reading Scriptures for the daily Mass on a regular basis and even though I was a cradle Catholic and went to Church every week, I realized that I didn’t really understand how the readings connected, who their audience was and the context of the readings. I found myself asking more and more questions about our faith and digging deeper to find meaning in Scripture. Consequently, I became more involved in parish life, joined a men’s group devoted to breaking open the Word, attended a seminar on the Holy Spirit and went to my first IGNITE Men’s Conference.

The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn and desired to help others learn and grow in their faith. Enrolling in the Formation for Ministry program seemed a natural progression in my conversion. (I say conversion, because that is what was happening to me.) My heart was changing, it was becoming open in a new way.  Even as I was learning more about my faith I couldn’t shake the notion that somewhere along the way we could have done a better job of providing programs to the faithful to help us grow in wisdom.

Maybe we could have done a better job, but at the same time we have to be open to God’s Word. In hindsight, I see that the Church has tried to help us learn and grow in our understanding of the faith. I just wasn’t all that open to it. I wasn’t closed off to the Spirit, I simply didn’t know how to be open to that Spirit and his participation in my life. I’m not even sure today, how to be open. I’m not even sure we can open our hearts ourselves, but rather be just willing to let God do His work on our hearts Himself.

For the first time in my life I was surrounded by people who were very open in sharing  their stories of faith, both the dry times and the times of great joy.  Hearing their stories and sharing my own with them was an amazing experience. I can’t begin to tell you what an impact my classmates had on me and my view of our faith. While we had great teachers, it was the students and their interaction with one another that made the experience something that I will always cherish and feel truly blessed to be a part of.

Laurie Ostrander

St. Bernard


I am a lifelong parishioner of St. Bernard’s Church in Waterville. My husband and I have been married 38 years. We have three Chihuahua fur babies. I retired in 2015 after 30 years of service with the Waterville Central School District where I was a guidance secretary. My husband’s widowed mother lived with us for 32½ years up until April 2018 when she passed away. Retirement and having available time allowed me to become more active in my parish. It is nice to be able to attend weekday events such as adult Bible study, Mass and Eucharistic Adoration, and to volunteer my time as needs arise at St. Bernard’s. Becoming a substitute lector, laundering liturgical linens, experiencing firsthand what a sacristan does, and even mowing and trimming our cemetery and campus were all new adventures. A personal goal not yet met is to read the entire Bible and Father Mike Schmitz is helping me to achieve that with his “The Bible in a Year” podcast.

Becoming involved in Formation for Ministry seemed to happen at the right time for the right reasons. The first course I took was Evangelization which I took for personal enrichment just to see if I was up to the challenge. This was a steppingstone for another program of formation called Genesis Mission—becoming an agent of life and change by sharing the Good News allows us to go deeper into personal discipleship. One highlight of my experience was how enriching each and every course was. Course after course left me yearning for more knowledge of our faith. If I had to do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat and I highly recommend Formation for Ministry. A second highlight was becoming disciplined with prayer, reflection and discernment. COVID-19 certainly allowed ample time for each of these to become a solid learned behavior.

Kerry Read

St. Mary of the Assumption


I’m 40 years old and starting my 19th year teaching. I teach English as a new language for first grade at Franklin Elementary School in Syracuse. At St. Mary’s, I’m a member of the Pastoral Council, a sacristan and a Eucharistic minister, and I helped to organize the bilingual Masses with our linked parish for the Migrant Ministry.

I decided to do the Formation for Ministry program because I wanted to learn more about my faith and how I can share that with others. I feel that I’ve been so blessed by the Lord’s gifts that I just want others to love Jesus as much as I do. My hope was that this would be a great basis to learn how to help others in my parish.

There are so many wonderful things I’ve experienced from being involved in the FFM program. Not only have I grown deeper in my faith, but I’ve also built wonderful friendships with others in the program. This supportive network makes it easier to take chances doing new things, volunteering in new ways that I might not have done before. I loved riding to and from class with my friend Helen discussing more about the class. I truly feel like God put these special people in my life as lifelong friends.

Another great highlight from the program is learning about my charisms at one of the overnight retreats. I was so excited when I learned my charisms were what I thought they’d be. I think that mine are spot on: Faith, Hospitality, Helpfulness, Knowledge and Music. I think that the hospitality and helpfulness charisms accurately describe my love of talking and what I do with teaching: make my students feel welcome and help them learn and grow. I think that knowing about myself will help me share my love of God with others while they grow theirs.

2021 Formation for Ministry Commissioning of Lay Ecclesial Ministers

Parish Service Ministry

Jan DeAngelo
Our Lady of Sorrows, Vestal
Rev. John Donovan Sponsor and Supervisor

John Finn Christ the King, Liverpool
Rev. Zachary Miller
Sponsor and Supervisor

Susan Hacker
St. Ambrose, Endicott
Dc. Thomas Harley,
Sponsor Rev. Michael Galuppi,
Supervisor, Previous Pastor

Gail Hefferon
St. Ann, Manlius
Rev. Brian Lang, Sponsor
Dc. Dare Dutter, Supervisor

Saundra Macidyn
St. Mary of the Assumption, Minoa
Rev. Stephen Wirkes
Sponsor and Supervisor

James Morris
Sacred Heart, Cicero
Rev. Richard Prior Sponsor and Supervisor

David Nesbitt
St. Mary of the Assumption, Baldwinsville
Rev. Clifford Auth, Sponsor
Amy Casper, Supervisor

Laurie Ostrander
St. Bernard, Waterville
Rev. Jason Hage, Sponsor
S. Kelly Falk, Supervisor

Kerry Read
St. Mary of the Assumption, Baldwinsville
Rev. Clifford Auth, Sponsor
Sr. Marcia Barry, Supervisor

Renée Romance
St. Mary of the Assumption, Baldwinsville
Rev. Clifford Auth, Sponsor
Amy Casper, Supervisor

Lisa Scott Christ the King, Liverpool
Rev. Zachary Miller, Sponsor
Dc. Thomas Cuskey, Supervisor

Kenneth Theurer
Holy Family, Syracuse
Rev. John Manno Sponsor and Supervisor

Laurie Theurer
Holy Family, Syracuse
Rev. John Manno Sponsor and Supervisor

Betsy West
St. Joseph-St. Patrick, Utica
Rev. Richard Kapral
Sponsor and Supervisor

Eric Zumwalt
Christ the Good Shepherd, Oswego
Rev. John W. Canorro
Sponsor and Supervisor

Liturgical/RCIA Ministries

Helen Frawley
Epiphany Parish, Liverpool
Rev. Daniel O’Hara
Sponsor and Supervisor

Faith Formation Ministry

Renée Davis
St. James, Johnson City
Rev. Charles Opondo-Owora, Sponsor
Andrea Schaffer, Supervisor

Mercedes Genei  
Church of the Holy Family, Vernon
Rev. Christopher Ballard, Sponsor
Andrea Slaven, Supervisor

Anne Marie Voutsinas
Immaculate Conception, Fayetteville
Rev. Thomas Ryan, Sponsor
Gail Capozzi, Supervisor
Parish Business Administration

Amy Stevens
Pope John XXIII, Liverpool
Rev. Zachary Miller, Sponsor
Dc. Thomas Cuskey, Supervisor

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