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Catholic Rural Life Expands Lay Leadership Training Program

August 14th, 2014

LifeinChriststudiesAfter being tested and tweaked for more than three years, Catholic Rural Life’s Life in Christ is ready to expand. The Diocese of Des Moines will be the first new diocese to implement the lay leadership program. The program will now be present in three different rural dioceses in three different states. The Oblate JPIC Office is a member of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, and encourages interested Oblates to contact the coalition to learn more about the lay leadership training program.

The initiative, which has operated as a pilot program in the Dioceses of Winona and Sioux Falls since 2011, aims to equip laymen and women in rural dioceses with the knowledge and ability to lead small groups in their parishes. Life in Christ emphasizes an engagement with the entirety of the Catholic faith, including Scripture, the Catechism, and papal encyclicals, and seeks to ultimately revitalize the faith of Catholics in rural America in the spirit of the New Evangelization.

Jim Ennis, CRL’s executive director, said, discussions with the Diocese of Des Moines began when Bishop Richard Pates, a board member of CRL, learned of the program’s success in Winona and Sioux Falls at a board meeting late last year.

“[Bishop Pates] approached me after the meeting and said he wanted Des Moines to be the next diocese where Life in Christ was present,” recalled Ennis.

Ennis noted that the Diocese of Des Moines has seen a great “reengagement with rural life” over the past few years, as they’ve revitalized traditions like rural life celebration. He says Bishop Pates wanted some additional initiatives that would support Catholics in the countryside, and the lay leadership program was a perfect fit.

“Like other dioceses that have large rural populations, priests in the Diocese of Des Moines are often covering 3 or 4 parishes,” said Ennis. “Because of this strain put on the priests, there’s a real need to develop lay leaders who help carry the load.”

Three deacons from the Diocese of Des Moines will attend CRL’s lay leadership retreat later this month, where they’ll receive the instruction and support they need to lead small groups back in their parishes.

Ennis says that if the results from the Dioceses of Winona and Sioux Falls are any indication, the Life in Christ program will be a success in Des Moines—and where ever else it’s implemented.

“This model of the lay leadership program works in both small and medium sized communities,” said Ennis. “We’ve found that it really gives people a confidence in reading Scripture, a confidence in leading discussions, and that these lay leaders are ultimately seeing a spiritual revitalization both in their parishes and within themselves.”

If you are interested in bringing the Life in Christ program to your diocese, please contact Jim Ennis at or 651-962-5956.


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