Graduates of the Diocese of Burlington’s Lay Formation Leadership Program celebrated their completion of the two-year program that seeks to form laity to assist in leadership roles in their parishes. Twenty-one men and women were enrolled in the program that culminated with a May 19 celebration at St. Joseph Cathedral in Burlington.

“This was a wonderful program,” said Jules Wetchi, a parishioner of St. Joseph Cathedral originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. “When I moved here, I was looking for an activity to do in the parish. I work with the African community here, and I learned strategies and methodologies on how to invite them to be more active in the parish.”

Graduates gathered after Mass to receive certificates from Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne and to celebrate with their families and guests the conclusion of the program. Deacon Phil Lawson, executive director of evangelization, catechesis, divine worship, marriage and family and respect life for the Diocese of Burlington, congratulated the graduates on their accomplishment. “Every single one of you grew as a disciple of Christ, and your parishes are the richer for it,” he said.

Annie Roth, a parishioner of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Shelburne, plans to use the skills she gained to help make her parish more vibrant. “I hope to help develop leadership among the members of our parish as we move forward in a spiritual renewal looking toward the 125th anniversary of the establishment of St. Catherine Church,” she said.

Before graduating, participants completed capstone projects in their parishes designed to apply the skills they gained theologically, pastorally and academically. The graduates will continue to serve their parishes as Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults leaders and directors of religious education, facilitating marriage preparation, leading evangelization efforts and facilitating the Church’s charitable outreach. The lay ministry program is implemented in partnership with the Diocese of Kalamazoo’s Institute for Missionary Discipleship; the next cycle will begin in August.

—Originally published in the Summer 2016 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.