SCRANTON – After feeling called to strengthen their relationship with God and learn more about the Catholic faith, five individuals in the Diocese of Scranton have completed a years-long process to receive a certificate in Lay Ministry Formation.

Those who have completed the coursework now have a significant degree of preparation, formation, and professional competence to serve their parish communities and the entire diocese in mutual collaboration with local priests and deacons.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, celebrates the commissioning of candidates for the Lay Ministry Formation Program at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton on March 3, 2024. (Photos/Mike Melisky)

Four individuals – Ana Becerril, Rufino Cano, Linda Sampson, and Diane Stone – were each commissioned as Lay Ecclesial Ministers during a Mass celebrated by the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, on March 3, 2024, at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.

The fifth individual, Patricia Blockus, has also completed all of the coursework but was unable to attend the Mass.

The Diocesan Lay Ministry Program helps prepare Catholic adults for ministry in their parishes by expanding their knowledge of Scripture and Catholic theology and helping each live their baptismal call in service to others.

“It has been a blessing to be part of this program,” Cano said following the Mass.
Cano, a parishioner of Saint Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Scranton, began the Lay Ministry Program in 2017 after feeling called to give it a try. Since initially signing up, he has taken numerous online courses in catechesis and ministry leadership.

“It gives you more formation and more knowledge about the church and the teachings of the church and how you can help your community and your parish through that knowledge,” he said.

Even before his commissioning, Cano has helped his parish develop a weekly Spanish bulletin and now hosts training sessions for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion in Spanish throughout the diocese on a regular basis.

Cano actively wants to help other people grow in discipleship and service to the Church.

“The courses are really strong. They’re university courses so it’s not like you can just sit back and watch,” Cano explained. “It’s a big effort but it really helps.”

Sampson, a parishioner of Saint Peter Parish in Wellsboro, first read about the Lay Minister Program in The Catholic Light in 2019 and felt it could help in her spiritual growth.

“There is so much about the Church itself that I learned and how to interact with people,” she said.

The Tioga County native focused her lay ministry activities around a ‘Marian theme’ and has helped to create a beautiful Marian Ministries Program in her Northern Tier community.

“We plan pilgrimages, brunches, and retreats and all sorts of things for people to come and encounter God,” Sampson explained. “It is growing naturally, and we hope that this will just help it move forward and touch more lives.”

Stone, secretary at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Tunkhannock, was a little more hesitant to participate in the Lay Ministry Program when her pastor and deacon submitted her name for consideration back in 2019.

“I never thought I would do something like this,” she joked.

After starting the classes in 2020 right before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Stone found herself gaining both wisdom and knowledge.

“I’ve learned so much more about my Catholic faith that I didn’t know, and I want to be more involved with the church, not only our home church, but the whole church,” she explained.

Over the last several years, Stone has learned more about the structure of the church and has taken classes on the importance of individual prayers.

“When people now ask certain questions, I know the answer,” Stone said. “I just want to be able to lead people to God, my family and my church family.”

Becerril said the Lay Ministry Program classes helped her come to a better understanding of the universality of the Catholic Church.

“I fell in love and I continued with it all these years,” Becerril said.

As someone who helps lead faith formation classes at her parish, Saint Teresa of Calcutta in Scranton, Becerril realizes receiving her certificate is only the beginning of the work she is being called to do.

“This is a huge responsibility, as the Bishop mentioned, to be present (to people) with compassion, to hear people,” she said. “I feel like the Lord is taking us a little further and a little further, deepening us in His love.”

During the Mass, which took place on the Third Sunday of Lent, Bishop Bambera thanked each of the individuals commissioned as Lay Ecclesial Ministers for their desire to walk more closely with the Lord and helping to build the church.

“We give thanks to them and to their families for their commitment, to their desire to walk more deeply with the Lord, and indeed to serve the people of God in our diocese.”

For more information on the Lay Ministry Program, contact Mary Hallman, Diocesan Secretary for Parish Life, at (570) 207-2213.