lay formation


Institute of Lay Formation

The INSTITUTE OF LAY FORMATION (formerly the "Institute of Lay Ministry") was founded in the Diocese of Winona-Rochester in 1998 to call lay women and men to a deeper living out of their Christian vocation in the world, and to prepare them for more faithful and effective lay leadership in the Church. The Institute seeks to be a resource for parishes and other church institutions in preparing lay leaders. 

Institute of Lay Ministry Class of 2022









The Institute of Lay Formation arises out of the vision of the Second Vatican Council that every lay believer is called to be "at the same time a witness and a living instrument of the mission of the Church" (Lumen Gentium, No. 33).  This call of the laity to discipleship and ministry finds powerful affirmation in the U.S. Catholic Bishops' statement, "Called and Gifted for the Third Millennium."  The bishops write: "Through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist every Christian is called to participate actively and co-responsibly in the Church's mission of salvation in the world."

The Institute of Lay Formation, begun in 1998, is a comprehensive program of prayer, study and reflection on the Catholic Faith and on the life of discipleship and service within the Church. The Institute offers its students a process of education and formation on the Church's teaching, tradition, and ministry.  It is designed to challenge and support lay women and men in actively living out their vocation both within the Church and in the world.

The Institute has three components:

CREDO ~ Together in Faith
A catechetical/theological formation component
CARITAS ~ Together in Service
A lay leadership/discipleship formation component
EMMAUS ~ Together in Christ
A continuing education/formation component.

Formation Process

The Institute of Lay Ministry's formation process consists of four major components:

Intellectual Formation
The study of and reflection on the major aspects of the Catholic Faith (e.g., Scripture, church history, liturgy and the sacraments, etc.)
Human Formation
The exploration and development of the human qualities and personal maturity needed for faith-filled and healthy living.
Spiritual Formation
Discernment, reflection, and prayer experiences relating to Christian discipleship and ministry
Pastoral Formation
The development of skills relating to lay leadership (e.g., collaboration, communication skills, etc.), including a practicum experience.

Entrance Guidelines

Students in the Institute of Lay Formation...

  • are able to commit to the requirements of the program.

  • have a desire for renewal and growth in their faith lives.

  • have the support of their pastor (or the leadership of their particular church institution).

  • have the support of their spouse, if married, and family.

  • are in reasonably good physical and emotional health.

  • are active participants in the sacramental life of the Church.

  • have the desire and capacity for serving as lay leaders.

  • are open to people of diverse backgrounds and faith experiences.

Tuition and Expenses

The tuition for the Institute is $325.00. Tuition covers all program-related expenses -- instructional expenses (e.g., books and course materials), prayer and worship materials, food, etc. Annual tuition expenses can be paid for in multiple payments over the course of the formation year, if desired.  Students assume the cost of their travel-related expenses.

Sponsoring parishes/institutions are encouraged to assist their students in covering Institute expenses, if this is possible. Tuition assistance is also available from the diocese, and may be applied for at the beginning of each formation year.  The Office of Lay Formation works to ensure that financial constraints do not preclude anyone from participating in the Institute.

Practicum Project

Students in the CARITAS ~ Together in Service program (a one-year leadership formation program, which follows the CREDO ~ Together in Faith program), participate in a directed practicum project in their local parish/community that includes the following components:

  • self-designed activities and experiences which relate to the student's personal interests and goals as a disciple and lay leader

  • parish/community-based support and direction relating to the practicum

  • small group reflection and sharing relating to the practicum experience.

Diocesan Commissioning

Students who successfully complete the requirements of the CREDO and CARITAS components of the Institute of Lay Formation are commissioned by the bishop for "leadership in ministry to the people of God" in the parishes and institutions of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester. This commissioning is a recognition of the student's work in the Institute and an affirmation of the knowledge and skills for ministry that they have received through their participation in the Institute. It expresses the diocese's expectation that they will use the fruits of this formation process for active leadership as lay leaders serving in the parishes and Catholic institutions of the diocese.

Relation to Diaconate Formation

Participation in the Institute of Lay Formation serves as a prerequisite for application to diaconate formation for the Diocese of Winona-Rochester. 

Parish/Institution Sponsorship

Lay ministry is carried out within the context and with the support of a faith community. In light of this, applicants to the Institute are asked to seek the formal support and sponsorship of a parish/church institution. The sponsoring parish/institution is asked to...

  • arrange for the pastor/director to meet with the prospective student to discuss his/her participation in the Institute before submitting an application.

  • provide formal approval from the pastor/director, in support of the prospective student's application.

  • provide direction and supervision for the student during his/her practicum project, which takes place during the third year in the Institute.

  • assist in the payment of the student's tuition and/or other expenses related to his/her participation in the Institute (if this is possible).

Student Participation and Commitment

Institute of Lay Formation students are expected to ...

  • participate actively and constructively in all of the formation sessions and activities held each year. [If serious reasons preclude a student from being able to do so, then he or she may be excused with the consent of the director. Reading and writing assignments will still need to be completed.]

  • complete the reading and writing assignments relating to Institute sessions.

  • meet with their pastor/director -- or another designated parish leader -- on a regular basis while participating in the Institute to seek support and guidance, and to discuss their work in the Institute in relation to the life and ministry of the parish/institution.

  • participate actively in the prayer and liturgical life of the Institute.

  • assist in building up a spirit of Christian support and community among all Institute students.

If a student is not fulfilling these responsibilities, the Director of Lay Formation (after careful consideration and after discussing the concerns with the student) may request that he or she discontinue their participation in the Institute.

Program Outcomes

Institute of Lay Formation students ...

  • receive a solid, introductory education in the Church's history, teaching, and tradition.

  • are provided with opportunities to develop and enhance their knowledge and skills as lay leaders.

  • are provided with opportunities to pray and reflect on, and to grow in, their personal faith lives, and to deepen the spiritual foundations that nurture and animate their lay vocation.

  • learn together and build relationships with other women and men committed to growth in their faith lives and in their discipleship and ministry.

  • become part of a supportive, prayerful, living community of Christian faith together with their fellow Institute students and Institute alumni.

Todd Graff

Director of the Office of Lay Formation

55 W. Sanborn Street
PO Box 588
Winona, MN 55987
Phone: (507) 858-1270
Fax: (507) 454-8106