By Jeff Grant
THE CATHOLIC SUN
AVONDALE, Ariz., — When Fr. William Kosco arrived at St. Henry in 2006 to pastor the Buckeye parish, he was so impressed by the catechetical knowledge of one of his parishioners, he thought the man had been in seminary.
But as Fr. Kosco soon learned, the man and his wife were graduates of the Diocese of Phoenix’s Kino Catechetical Institute, the two-year program that forms laity with the basic theological and Church knowledge to engage the world as effective disciples of Jesus Christ.
“I was so impressed with their knowledge,” Fr. Kosco recalled in his homily during this year’s Kino graduation Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas Church. “I said, ‘Where did you learn this stuff?’”
“I’ve been a fan ever since.”
On Wednesday, June 7, outgoing Kino Director Steve Greene and Bishop John P. Dolan handed out certificates to 43 graduates representing a number of parishes throughout the Diocese, formally completing their study and launching some into roles as teachers, trainers, or even deacons.
“What a great joy it is to celebrate your graduation,” Bishop Dolan said as he prepared to celebrate Mass.
Later, the bishop praised Greene, who is leaving Kino after a decade of leadership.
“We are grateful for the wonderful gift you are to us. You have a heart for ‘the deposit of faith,’ and you really can’t put a value on that,” the bishop said,
Greene thanked the graduates for their “hard work” over the past two years.
“Let us always continue to work together for the building up of the Kingdom of God,” he said.
‘SO WONDERFUL AND SO HELPFUL’
Fr. Kosco, who has served as an institute instructor, delivered the homily. He said St. Henry has consistently sent parishioners to Kino.
“In every course I’ve taught, I’ve learned more than my students have. What they bring back to our parish is so wonderful and so helpful,” he told the congregation.
Launched in 1972, the Institute is named for Padre Eusebio Kino, an Italian Jesuit who pioneered missions for Spain in Sonora and Arizona during the 1600s and early 1700s. Restructured by then-Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted in 2011, the Kino Catechetical Institute uses a group of priests, consecrated religious and regular laymen and women to teach a series of classes over a two-year period. The curriculum includes 14 five-week courses — held once a week for three hours.
The institute also allows one to audit the program, making the person exempt from required writing and tests. They don’t receive credit, but it is an option for someone uncertain of making the full time commitment.
Not every Diocese offers this type of formation at the diocesan level, Greene said.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops launched an initiative in 2021 to encourage broader participation.
Designed to help an individual know Jesus and His teachings via the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Institute’s formation topics include Introduction to both the Old and New testaments; the Church – its nature and historical development — the Sacraments and Liturgy; Catholic moral responsibility; Catholic social teaching, and others.
Greene said the program is invaluable to helping Catholics understand their faith and use that knowledge transform the world.
“We are the inheritors of 2,000 years of this beautiful theology — full, complete understanding of who God is, who man is — I don’t think you can put a price tag on that.”
“What made it rich was the history, the basic truth – to learn where we get those beliefs,” said Vincent Pawlak of Our Lady of the Valley Parish in north Phoenix. Pawlak, who completed the program with his wife, Tracy, is discerning the Diaconate. The couple also teach Baptism classes in their parish, and Tracy is a Eucharistic Minister.
“It’s like an onion,” Vincent Pawlak explained of learning theology and about the Church. “The more we peel it back, the more layers there are. Not just the tradition and the Bible but finding out as God’s people how we have come together and why we believe what we believe. Every class and the instructors were all phenomenal,” he said.
“Every class and the instructors were all phenomenal.”
“I was hesitant because I hadn’t been to school in 25 years. The more we delved into different subjects, the more I enjoyed it.”
‘THE LORD PUT ME HERE’
Lilia Ramos of Holy Cross Parish in Mesa, who also serves as an EM in her church, thought she ‘knew everything.’ That quickly changed with her first hours at Kino.
“I’m happy the Lord put me here. There was so much more to learn. I don’t want to keep it inside. I’m ready to tell the whole world,” she said, her eyes widening, her smile broadening.
“I’m happy the Lord put me here. There was so much more to learn. I don’t want to keep it inside. I’m ready to tell the whole world.”
Greene said many Kino graduates emerge eager not only to evangelize but to serve within the Church.
Graduate Michael Strahota of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish wants to become active in restarting the Diocese’s Young Men’s Conference.
“We need (a) deeper understanding of what we believe. Kino helps prepare you to participate in ministry. It puts your prayer life in perspective and helps you realize the details of your faith (that) you might be missing,” he said.
Strahota’s sister, Magdalena, completed the program in 2018. Now a mother of two young children, she said family demands take priority over service, but she hopes to use her knowledge in conversations with others.
She said that the Gospel and the life of the Church offer hope in a struggling and confused society.
“The world is going through an identity crisis. People are searching for validation and for love, they want truth. They’re trying to figure it out, and they don’t know how. They’re being misled, and it’s very, very sad.”
“It’s a combination of things, but mainly the breakdown of the family,” she continued.
“We have a lot of men who don’t know how to be men and take responsibility and act on their authority. We have women who are told they have to be more masculine.”
Greene agreed that today’s cultural challenges make programs such as Kino vital for the faithful.
“We are living in the post-Christian West, increasingly even the anti-Christian. It is more and more important as Catholics we have a firm grasp on what we believe.
We are reminded of what Saint Peter says in his First Letter (1 Peter 3:15), “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” (New American Standard Bible)
Or, as Fr. Kosco put it,
“We might call the deposit of faith ‘music of God.’ And you Kino students, you heard that music. You were drawn toward that.
“Your mission is to keep the music playing.”’
IS GOD CALLING YOU?
Applications for 2023-24 are now open
Contact: Kino Catechetical Institute
Courses are held at the Diocesan Pastoral Center,
400 E. Monroe Street, Phoenix, AZ 85004