Three years ago, when David Wilson of Blessed Sacrament parish in Bolton Landing saw his youngest daughter go off to college, he knew he needed an avocation. With no more school sports games to attend or volunteering with high school activities necessary, there was time to explore an area he wanted to know more about: his faith.

"I'd always been a believer, but I was getting to the point where I wanted to have more of a relationship with Christ, and I knew that through my own studies it wouldn't be enough for me," said Mr. Wilson, who is a lector at his parish and a nurse at Glens Falls Hospital.

He found the Kateri Institute for Lay Ministry Formation: a three-year program of the Albany Diocese designed to coach lay men and women on how to become better at Church ministries and become leaders in areas like evangelization, pastoral care of the sick, social justice or liturgy.

At first, Mr. Wilson was hesitant to apply, unsure about the three-year commitment and about balancing his job as a nurse with family life and study. He and his wife, Melissa, have three daughters and six grandchildren, with another on the way. In the end, he said, he left everything "in God's hands" and entered the program.

Three years later, in June 2017, Mr. Wilson and classmates completed the Kateri Institute. He said the program helped him strengthen and establish a better understanding of the faith.

"It really fit the bill for me," he told The Evangelist.

The program meets one Saturday a month from September through June for about eight hours. There are regional sites around the 14 counties of the Diocese so that students can commute to the nearest site. Each gathering generally consists of prayer, two talks and a group discussion.

"The goal of the Kateri Institute is to provide men and women a foundational understanding of our Catholic faith and some initial skills needed to be effective in ministry," said David Amico, director of the Diocese's Office of Ministry Formation and administrator of the Diocesan Pastoral Council.

Among topics covered in the program are Church history, preparing and leading prayer services, ecclesiology (the study of the Churches), Hebrew Scriptures and liturgy. Students use books that coincide with each liturgical year, and complete required readings and reflection papers.

Mr. Wilson said that balancing work, family and the Kateri Institute was never unmanageable.

For "an individual that's looking to expand their an understanding of the Catholic faith [and] build a relationship with Christ, this program offers the opportunity to do that in a way that you don't have to compromise your personal responsibility," he said.

The Kateri Institute alum is unsure what his next steps in parish life and leadership might be, but he said he's open to whatever comes to pass. Mr. Wilson has spoken at Blessed Sacrament about the Kateri Institute and hopes to share about it at other local parishes.

"It's a wonderful program," he said.

(For information about the Kateri Institute for Lay Ministry Formation, contact Mr. Amico at