By Linda Cunha-Ricchio
As my July 1 retirement date fast approaches, I am filled with gratitude for the eight years during which I have served as Director of the Institute for Leadership in Ministry. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve in this ministry of accompaniment–witnessing God’s work and plan in each student; mentoring those who struggled, sometimes with classwork, sometimes with life’s challenges; celebrating births, engagements, and mourning the deaths of students and family members; and, celebrating successes, especially graduation. God has been very present in these wonderful relationships!
This has also been for me a ministry of collaboration–with pastors, faculty, and Diocesan colleagues. Forming ministerial leaders is a collaborative effort which involves many. I have valued the close working relationship with pastors and their teams. Our outstanding faculty have been partners with me in the work of the Institute.
I am very grateful for my Diocesan colleagues who have been collaborators and a source of inspiration to me. Too numerous to name, they have all left an imprint on my heart.
From the start of my tenure, my goal was to maintain the principles and vision which were the foundation of the Institute while seeking to meet the changing needs of the Diocese. Lay leadership was identified as one of the key issues in the 2002 Diocesan Pastoral Plan and continues to be important to our local church. Anne Grycz served as ILM director for 12 years. In 2010, she passed the baton of leadership to me and the ILM has continued to adapt and to flourish.
I was asked to include in this reflection what I am most proud of having accomplished. Two important innovations of these eight years can be seen as “bookends” of the ILM program: the beginning semester process, called “Encountering Christ,” invites students to enter into a deeper relationship with Christ through prayer. This provides a foundation on which students then begin their theology classes, linking heart and head.
The other bookend is a final semester capstone-type course. The aim is to help the student to integrate previous classwork plus self-evaluation, discernment with personal prayer, charism inventory, and formal meeting with their pastor to determine their future mission and ministry according to the needs of the parish.
During the past eight years, more than 415 students were graduated in the combined English and Spanish tracks. Additionally, more than 100 graduates returned along with other parish leaders to take 8-week elective courses as part of ongoing formation. More than 120 individuals have been members of our faculty and have contributed greatly to the Institute’s success.
I am honored to have been able to make a contribution to the life of the local church. I will miss the Institute community of students and faculty. It has been a blessing to know and to serve so many wonderful and dedicated people. I have learned so much from so many. Life after ILM? The call to ministry to serve the Lord flows from our Baptism, it does not end with a particular job position. I will still be involved in ministry in the church, just a different expression of it.
I began this reflection with gratitude and it is fitting that I end with it. There are many esteemed individuals I would to thank: Bishop McGrath for his faith in me and ongoing support of the ILM; various supervisors over the years, Fr. Brendan McGuire, Monsignor Fran Cilia, and Fr. John Hurley, CSP, for their support and wisdom.
Lastly, I am grateful to my husband, Frank, who has supported me through all my years of ministry. There were many times when he even rolled up his sleeves to be one of the volunteers. After waiting patiently for my retirement, we now begin a new chapter together.
Please join me in welcoming and praying for the new director, Irma Alarcon de Rangel. Together let us pray for the continued success of the Institute as it strives to prepare workers for the Vineyard of the Lord.