Lay ecclesial ministry program offers English and Spanish classes 

MERRILLVILLE - How would you like to develop your leadership skills while falling more in love with Jesus? Lay Ecclesial Ministry may just be the answer.
The Diocese of Gary will begin its next Lay Ecclesial Ministry cohort with three call-out meetings this month. “We want to mobilize leaders,” said Father Declan McNicholas,  director of missionary discipleship and evangelization and new director of the lay ecclesial ministry program for the diocese. “We want students to have the educational foundation of theology to help them lead our people.”
The LEM program is a three-year course that provides parish volunteers and employees with the opportunity to gain confidence in their leadership skills while connecting with the larger Catholic Church, explained Father McNicholas.
Jay Boby said his studies “sure boosted” his confidence. The Chesterton resident who recently graduated from LEM said it was worth every moment as he grew in all facets of the Catholic faith while fulfilling a requirement to become a deacon at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Student Center in Valparaiso.
“It really provides you with everything you need to know,” Boby said. “I don’t know exactly how to say this, but everyone should do it. There is so much more to our faith that we don’t even touch on…When you have a firm foundation of your faith, it is really something to get excited about!”
The LEM program is a formational and educational program designed for directors of religious education, principals, liturgists, youth ministers – all current and prospective employees within the diocese and lay volunteers involved in ministry.
The program, which also serves as a prerequisite for those aspiring to participate in the diaconate formation program, requires weekly classes and four Saturday morning formation sessions per semester.  In addition to Introduction to Catholicism, there are five academic courses including: Old Testament, New Testament, Spiritual Theology, and more.
A new cohort for the LEM program will begin in September with programs in both English and Spanish, but now is the time for parish leaders to pray and discern whether they or someone they know would benefit from the LEM program, Father McNicholas said. 
The next informational meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m., Thursday, April 18, at the Diocesan Pastoral Center, 9292 Broadway, Merrillville. A Spanish-speaking informational meeting will be held at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 25, at St. Mary in East Chicago, and a bilingual session will be at 7 p.m., on Tuesday, April 30 at Queen of All Saints in Michigan City.
To help with the discernment process, for the first time this year, the initial class, Introduction to Catholicism, will be available to attend both in-person and remotely, noted Father McNicholas.
This class provides an introduction to theology and scripture and offers a space for individuals who are considering joining the LEM but want to learn more before committing to the full three years.
For more information and to apply: To RSVP for one of the informational evenings:
Another recent LEM graduate, Lynda Klekowski, a parishioner of St. John Bosco in Hammond, volunteers as a teacher assistant for religious education through the Faith Formation ministry.  
Klekowski said God gave her the desire to become an ecclesial minister so she would have more confidence in evangelizing. “I've always felt a desire or calling to work with kids to teach them about God and Mary and Jesus and know how wonderful our Catholic faith is.”
While the commitment is challenging, Klekowski said it is worth it. “We were blessed to be taught by our diocesan priests who helped us interpret the bible and learn our Catholic faith in a way that has made me appreciate being a Catholic so much more.
“I would encourage people who are discerning to become an LEM to take the time to speak with Father Declan and learn about the program and what opportunities it could offer them.  I would also encourage someone to meet with their pastor and let him know that this is something they're discerning so they can work together to see what this role could bring to their parish.”
About a dozen people attended the first call-out meeting at St. James the Less in Highland last month. “It went really well,” said Father McNicholas. “There is a lot of interest in the program.”


Caption: Father Declan McNicholas, director of missionary discipleship and evangelization and director of the lay ecclesial ministry, reviews newly printed literature designed to promote the LEM program, at the Pastoral Center in Merrillville on March 26. The diocesan program is a multi-year educational initiative offered to develop deeper knowledge and inspire those involved with or pursuing various ministries in the local Church. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)