Office Of Formation, Discipleship Set On Renewal
Published: March 29, 2012
ATLANTA—With new faces and a new focus, members of the Office of Formation and Discipleship aim to be of service to pastors and parish leaders as they reach out to the Catholic community.
“The focus of the office is support of pastors and the parish leadership in the mission to catechize and form the faithful,” said Amy Daniels, the director of the office. “Our activities are driven by the need (of parishes).”
The office is embarking on a new outreach after turnover in its staff. Daniels, who previously served as an Air Force chaplain and faith formation director at a 6,300-family North Carolina parish, has been the director here for a year. The staff has many new faces with two vacancies for the positions of religious education and family ministry and pastoral care that Daniels hopes to fill soon.
Daniels said her staff is putting a priority on rebuilding trust and relationship with the parish leaders. She said the work begins with visiting parishes, developing relationships and a commitment to resolving problems.
The Office of Formation and Discipleship has some new faces mixed among some existing members. The current staff includes, left to right, An Tran, communications coordinator; Monica Oppermann, pastor support; Ivonne S. Vreeland, operations manager; William L. Clarke, professional development; Amy S. Daniels, director; Nicole Hartman, program coordinator, family ministry; Gina Garcia, administrative assistant; and John Huynh, youth and young adult ministry. (Photo by Michael Alexander)
The bridge building will be deliberate so it’ll take time during the next several months, she said.
The Office of Formation and Discipleship serves close to 100 parishes and missions in the Atlanta Archdiocese, where some 2,000 people are expected to join the church this Easter. An advisory board is setting the direction for the office.
With the growth in the Catholic community and the church’s “Year of Faith” called by the pope starting in October, Daniels said it is important for her office to spread the word about the new tools the office has to help parishes.
One way is how the office is working with parishes to understand what is called New Evangelization to help prepare, said Daniels.
The goal of New Evangelization is to deepen connections with people who already identify as Catholics but only are marginally connected with a parish, said Daniels.
Young people getting married and parents making an effort to have their children receive the sacraments are the opportunities to deepen faith commitments, she said.
“That is a huge open door. We have to evangelize within our own church,” she said.
Daniels said the office has unique skills for an archdiocesan faith formation office.
One staff member is dedicated to skills development for parish religion teachers and faith formation directors so they can serve their parishes better, Daniels said.
The program, overseen by Bill Clarke, an experienced business management consultant, will offer a variety of programs, from helping the novice teacher improve presentation techniques to a senior catechist’s learning about Catholic leadership principles.
Also, there is staff member Monica Oppermann, whose purpose will be solely focused on engaging pastors to communicate how the office team can serve the pastors’ ministry needs.
Priests can contact Oppermann with a concern, and she’ll act as liaison to solve any issue or offer guidance to parish leaders.
At the same time, there remain areas of expertise within the staff, from youth and young adult ministry to family ministry and faith formation.
Daniels said the office is knocking down silos between areas of expertise and working with a “consultation approach” so parishes get the collective wisdom of the office, not just one person.
The office’s new focus will allow the staff to help the parishes implement the best programs that fit in the parish environment.
“Every parish is unique. There is going to be all sorts of diversity. Every location is going to be unique,” Daniels said.
And the office believes there is not a one-size-fits-all solution, she said.
“The best way we can serve is to make no assumptions,” she said.
The eight-member staff brings with it years of parish work and insights from business experience. Three languages are spoken by staff: Spanish, English and Vietnamese.
Among the staff are Ivonne Vreeland, the operations manager; An Tran, the communications coordinator; and Gina Garcia, administrative assistant.
And some of the new staff members who will be working with parishes are:
John Huynh, Youth and Young Adult Ministry, who is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, and St. Pius X High School. He has been involved in parish ministry for almost a dozen years, as a catechist and in youth ministry at All Saints and Our Lady of Vietnam parishes. For the past five years, Huynh has been teaching middle school religion, high school theology, and coaching soccer at Pinecrest Academy in Cumming.
Nicole Hartman, Program Coordinator, Family Ministry, is focused on planning and coordination of Pre-Cana and the 50th and 60th Anniversary Mass. A convert to the Church in 1997, Hartman has been involved in youth and young adult ministry for the past 14 years in the Archdiocese of Portland, Archdiocese of Miami, and the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
Bill Clarke, Professional Development, is the professional development liaison. This new position will be responsible for helping to enhance skills of religious educators. An experienced management consultant, Bill attends St. Mary Magdalene Church, Newnan.
Monica Oppermann, Pastor Support, is a parishioner at Holy Spirit Church where she helped begin and directed Holy Spirit’s Hispanic Mission in Sandy Springs. Her earlier career was with the Mexican government, serving primarily in the Mexican Foreign Ministry. She has served the Archdiocese of Atlanta as a member of the Planning Committee, as chair of the Discipleship Committee, and as a member of the Vocations Board.