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Introducing the St. Monica Institute: A New Centre of Catholic Formation

Posted : Dec-16-2021

The St. Monica Institute for Education and Evangelization is a new initiative from the Archdiocese of Toronto. This partner organization of St. Augustine’s Seminary will provide educational opportunities for Catholics in the archdiocese – and beyond.

Matthew Marquardt is the inaugural director of the St. Monica Institute. Below, he shares more details on what the institute will be offering the faithful very soon.

1. What is the St. Monica Institute?

St. Monica Institute has been founded by Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, to provide an accessible and collegial foundation for Catholics seeking to deepen their commitment to active Christian witness – to “go deep” into our faith as a constant lived reality, as Cardinal Collins so often and so wisely recommends that we do.

2. What are you hoping to achieve with the institute?

Our goal is to reach all Catholics – wherever they may be in their lives – and to equip and encourage them to experience a deeper commitment to their faith through lives of active witness, forming and equipping them for practical discipleship. We hope to help them put their faith into action as a central and profoundly joyful part of their lives, wherever their lives may take them.

Through such work, we also hope to bolster effective witness by the Catholic community, throughout the Archdiocese of Toronto and across Canada. By making use of the many excellent initiatives already at work within the Canadian Church, we hope to create a broad range of high-quality and accessible opportunities for formation and collegial exchange on a number of topics.

3. The St. Monica Institute will focus on four areas, or spheres, of evangelization. Can you tell us a bit about the work that will be done in each of those spheres?

At least initially, the institute will focus on the primary subjects of: Education; Parish Life; Family Life; and Life in the Public Square. We are leaving the door open to new topic areas, as the need arises.

Depending on the needs of the particular sphere, we will provide offering such as, certifications, authorizations, continuing professional development courses and additional qualifications. We will also provide retreats, workshops, conferences, networking opportunities, videos, printed materials and other educational and spiritual resources.

Education: We will provide courses in religious education, including for foundations and school chaplaincy. Our work will build support networks for teachers, assistants, counsellors, parents, supervisors, school trustees and others seeking to bear effective witness in public or private educational vocations.

Parish Life: The institute will help foster parish leadership and the establishment and formation of parish ministry groups. We will provide particular opportunities for those involved with: catechesis; sacramental preparation; liturgical service; charismatic and other forms of prayer; stewardship; hospitality; outreach; and bereavement

Family Life: Here we will support those involved with: youth ministry; family life and faith; marriage; family planning and parenting; single parent needs and support; children and special needs; home schooling; and more.

Life in the Public Square: In this sphere, we support: those seeking and serving in elected and appointed public office; the development of public policy and Christian influence; the service with secular, religious and charitable boards; the exploration of business and economics; the joyful witness in the office; and more.

4.  What will the courses from the St. Monica Institute look like? Will they be in-person or online?

We have been required to embrace the online world during the pandemic, just like everyone else. The institute is ready to make all its offerings available online initially, and in-person or hybrid in-person/online forms will be available for the foreseeable future. We hope to be accessible to everyone, wherever they are located, within the archdiocese (and beyond), in many cases, at any time of day. 

Our website is still in the construction phase, but is being developed to reflect the available offerings. It will always remain a primary resource for those wishing to interact with us.

5. One of the first offerings from the St. Monica Institute will explore the process of running for Catholic school board trustee. What do people need to know about this upcoming workshop?   

Obviously, education is one of the most important social functions; and principled education – particularly, well-grounded Catholic education – is essential if Canada and other nations will continue to thrive as free democracies under the guidance and protection of institutions adapted to help us in our individual and communal journeys back toward God. Thus, Catholic school boards serve a critical function for both the Catholic and non-Catholic population.

However, putting one’s name forward for service as a school trustee is a significant undertaking, calling for deep commitment – not only in terms of time and effort, but in ensuring that one is properly grounded in the full range of Catholic moral and social doctrine, in order to properly oversee the education of our children. In addition, having some understanding of the ins and outs of campaigning for elected office, as well as the history of Catholic education, can make all the difference in terms of having a positive and negative experience in seeking and undertaking service as a Catholic school trustee.

In collaboration with the Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association and the national civic evangelization organization Catholic Conscience, we have called together a faculty of highly respected trustees, teachers and advocates to present a one-day workshop for those who are already committed to, or who may be considering, putting their names forward. The program will be offered in early spring. Registration requirements are not yet finalized, but we are asking attendees to obtain a letter of recommendation from their parish pastor.

To learn more about the St. Monica Institute, please visit its website (which is a work in progress) here