A lot can happen in two years, Susan Bari found out.
Since beginning her study at the Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute in 2008, Bari’s faith journey has led to discerning a call to be a religious sister, deepening her prayer life and gaining a new understanding of Catholicism that she’s sharing in her parish and other areas of her life.
“I think that finally learning the foundations of our faith has really drawn me more to the spiritual side of what I’m doing in these ministries,” she said. “I think I can now, firsthand, be able to talk about those traditions and the things I have learned.”
In order to fill gaps in her own religious education, Bari applied for the institute’s two-year program that is designed for Catholic adults in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis who are seeking deeper knowledge of the Catholic faith and spiritual formation.
“I am one of what we refer to now as the ‘collage and macaroni generation,’ where information consisted literally of making collages, putting puzzle pieces together and a lot of memorizing of prayers,” she said. “However, what our faith is all about was lacking.”
Having completed a program that includes a comprehensive study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Bari and 125 other classmates will become the Institute’s first graduates on Sunday, May 16.
Many of the soon-to-be graduates are ready to share what they’ve learned in their parishes and communities, according to Kelly Wahlquist, the institute’s program manager.
“Now, as we’re getting closer to the graduation, what we’re starting to hear is how much they can’t wait to put what they have learned even more into practice,” she said. “It really is transforming lives.”
Theologian Jeff Cavins directs the institute.
At St. John Neumann in Eagan where Bari is a parishioner, she co-chairs the volunteer program and works with leadership development. Already, she’s been able to bring what she’s learning into presentations at workshops and seminars.
Last September, she became a postulant in the Servants of the Sacred Cross, an international ecumenical religious sisterhood of lay women who live and work in their own communities.
Studying the catechism and receiving spiritual formation to meditate on the word of God and understand what they’ve learned helps students make it a real part of their lives, which is a goal of the “new evangelization” described by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, said Msgr. Aloysius Callaghan, rector of the St. Paul Seminary, which oversees the institute.
“It’s to be a sign of hope to the people that they can know more about their faith and live it, but then that there’s a joy in doing just that,” he said. “Our people will have practical means that have been shared with them about how best to evangelize.”
Michael Kraemer of St. Alphonsus parish in Brooklyn Center said he is ready to use what he’s learned at the institute in service, but isn’t yet sure how he will do that.
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“Having an opportunity to really learn what our faith is about is just awesome,” said Kraemer, who added that he and his wife didn’t receive complete catechetical training growing up.
In addition to learning about Catholic teaching, Kraemer said the institute has helped him with “heart knowledge” to really grow in his faith.
“I get so much more out of Mass,” he said. “Not that I wasn’t getting stuff out of Mass before, but my relationship with the Lord has increased so much.”
Kraemer said he’s more connected at Sunday Mass because he’s learned to be more connected to his faith during the week. “My faith is now more inculcated into the decision-making process of my life,” he said.
The Kraemers are involved in preparing couples for marriage at their parish. In addition, Michael is a lector, eucharistic minister and acolyte. If the couple is not able to enter diaconate training this fall, Michael said they may look at pursuing a Catholic studies degree at the University of St. Thomas, serving in the archdiocesan Office of Marriage, Family and Life or in an RCIA program.
However, Kraemer said God wants him to share what he’s learned. He said the value of it and the realization of who God is in his life have been immeasurable.
“It was really a preparation for all of us to become an evangelist in a way,” he said. “To be truly Catholic, you can’t put this under a bushel basket and hide it.”s Catholic Spirit