APPLETON — They say the family that prays together, stays together. Bruce and Clare DuMontier are living proof that’s true.
The Appleton couple, who have been married 37 years, not only strive to pray together every day but they’ve taken it one step further. For the last four years they have deepened their faith experience by being enrolled in the Emmaus Lay Ministry Formation program together.
The Emmaus program is a three-stage college credit program for experienced parish ministers sponsored by the Diocese of Green Bay in collaboration with, and under the academic supervision of, Silver Lake College of the Holy Family. It is designed to form men and women who have demonstrated effectiveness in ministry and who seek to develop as ministerial leaders.
Both Bruce and Clare are active at their parish, St. Joseph in Appleton. They have two sons ages 32 and 30. Bruce, who is a dentist, recalled how they got the idea to pursue this certification. “I was retiring in 2012. I had something in my mind that I wanted to work for the church. I thought I wanted to be a counselor. When I talked to Carol Jensen, our adult faith formation coordinator, she suggested I try the Emmaus program, which was lay ministry. I didn’t know a thing about it. They gave us a little synopsis of what it entailed, and Clare said, ‘That’s really neat, I want to do that, too.’”
While Bruce now works part-time teaching a dental hygienist course at Fox Valley Technical College, Clare still works full-time as an attorney in her own law practice. The two of them decided to do the four-year Emmaus track, taking classes every Monday night during the fall and spring terms.
The DuMontiers are from Missouri and have lived in the Valley for 14 years. When they joined St. Joseph Parish, they joined the chime choir to meet people, Bruce said. Clare is a music minister and signed up to play the organ and piano for Masses and then became a confirmation catechist. Bruce is an extraordinary minister of holy Communion and a lector. They are active participants in the Focolare movement as well.
People in the Emmaus program can choose from one of five tracks to pursue as they go through their studies: pastoral ministry, liturgy, faith formation, youth ministry, and parish business manager. Bruce chose the pastoral ministry track and Clare chose the faith formation track.
On May 7, Bruce, Clare and their classmates will be graduating at a “Celebration Liturgy” at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay. They have talked with their pastor, Fr. Jim Leary, to determine how their new skills can be used to fill some needs at their parish.
They had a learning covenant with Emmaus, Clare said. In essence they were charged with bringing a new ministry to their parish. “Alpha was my learning covenant. We had a pilot program for Alpha that we started in September 2016,” said Clare. Alpha is a new evangelization initiative in the Diocese of Green Bay. “It’s for people who have questions about their faith, or people who’ve been away from church, or people who are regular church-goers and want to discuss their faith.”
“My project was to start a welcoming committee,” said Bruce, who is on the parish pastoral council. “Somebody mentioned that we could be a little more welcoming because our parish is growing very fast, and we’re getting a lot of new people. So it was brought up at pastoral council and I said, ‘That’s what I’d like to do for my project.’”
Bruce and Clare are involved in Christ Renews His Parish. Clare wants to continue that ministry, along with the Alpha program. “With the people who aren’t working for the church, (this training) helps them in the ministries they’re already doing — to be better trained, add more value, improve our skills and knowledge. Both of those programs fall under the adult faith formation program at St. Joe’s.”
Clare had praise for her Emmaus classmates and the program staff. “Each one has shared their ministries with us out of love for the church. Each one of them is a special, gifted person who wants to use their strengths and gifts to serve the church. It is a blessed community that we hope will continue to get together from time to time.”
The DuMontiers aren’t aware of any other couples who have taken the Emmaus training together but they are glad they did. “It’s very neat,” said Bruce. “We keep telling ourselves how lucky we are to have taken these courses because we’ve learned so much about the church and it’s made us appreciate our Catholic Church so much more. It has given us a closer relationship with Jesus and with each other. We just feel very blessed to have taken it together and to grow together.”
Bruce and Clare would recommend Emmaus to others. “If you feel called to learn more about your faith or if you’re already serving at your parish and you would like to learn skills and doctrine and knowledge to help you serve better,” said Clare.
“You grow closer to Christ because you learn more about him, just like when you get to know a person better, you can love them more,” she added. “I’ve often thought that with our Emmaus community — and it is a community with the teachers, the staff, the students — that Bible verse, where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in your midst. He is there with us at those classes. It’s so beautiful.”
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