By John Heuertz
Special to The Catholic Key
KANSAS CITY — Sharon Mason of St. Mary’s parish on the square in Independence wasn’t born a Catholic and knew little about Catholic ways while growing up. The pieces of the puzzle only started fitting together when she joined the Church as an adult.
“But when I started taking classes at the Bishop Helmsing Institute I found it so interesting I kept going back.”
Mason was one of 17 new graduates in the BHI Catechist Class of 2012 who received Catechetical Certification certificates June 18 at Our Lady of Good Counsel parish.
Besides Mason, the certificates were given for completing three years of course work to Gerald Anderson, Brenda Borrego, Luis Borrego, Atlantida Gallegos, Jose Garcia, Velia Gonzalez de Silva, Cecilia Medina, Wendy Medina, Aurora Miranda, Patricia H. Mort, Christopher Roberts, Elda Saenz, Luz Maria Salcido, John L. South, Mary Patricia DeFeo Storms and Roberto Vieyra.
“You are uniquely devoted to your Church, and maybe you even have a kind of calling,” said Msgr. Bradley Offutt in his homily. “But recognize there are limits placed on even ostensibly holy things, like ministry.”
Msgr. Offutt, the new diocesan Vicar General, told the graduates that “There has to be a balance between ministry and the rest of your life if you would be wise, if you would be holy.”
Newly appointed Diocesan Chancellor Jude Huntz encouraged graduates and others to “Have an answer for why you’re a Catholic,” and graduate Wendy Medina of Our Lady of Peace parish in Kansas City echoed the practical value of her BHI training.
“They helped me develop as a leader,” said Medina, a student at MCC. “I’m bombarded with modern culture. But now I feel prepared to defend my Faith and answer questions about my Faith.”
“It’s been a long three-year journey,” said graduate John South of St. John La Lande Parish in Blue Springs, whose wife Paula graduated from the program last year and encouraged him to pursue it.
“Before I started I didn’t have the knowledge to defend my faith when it was attacked,” he said. “Now I have the courage and strength to defend my Faith when people talk about it.”
The course of study includes doctrinal formation, spiritual development and teaching methodology. It also promotes growth in personal holiness.
Certificate holders often work as volunteer catechists at the parish level, or as parish or school employees, or in various works of charity, evangelization and social justice as laity.
BHI training has also helped people get certified as Catholic school teachers in about a year, said BHI Assistant Resource Director Dino Durando, although this varies by individual circumstance.
The Institute’s overarching desire is to teach classes “to help Catholic adults to know, love and serve Christ,” said Director Scott McKellar.
Since its founding in 2006, at least 2125 adults from 75 different diocesan parishes have taken at least one BHI course, and over 375 students have taken one year of studies.
The 17 adults who completed three years of study this year bring to 109 the total number of three-year BHI program graduates.