(Yukon-Kuskokwim Region)

Mission Statement: In 1990, the Native Ministry Training Program (NMTP) was established by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks. NMTP's mission is to assist the Catholic parishes and programs of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Region to train members for church approved ministries. The Native Ministry Training Program also provides these parish ministers with culturally appropriate, continuing education opportunities for their ministries.

History: The Native Ministry Training Program (NMTP) is based in St. Marys, at the old St. Mary's Mission school site, formerly operated by the Diocese, and in the heartland of the 22 Catholic Yup'ik Eskimo, one Cup'ik Eskimo village and one Athabascan Indian village in western Alaska. St. Marys is located on the north bank of the Andreafsky River, 1 mile from its confluence with the Yukon River, and is approximately 525 air miles southwest of Fairbanks. This lay leadership program is designed to assist the Eskimo and Athabascan parishes in the Lower Yukon-Kuskokwim Region to train members for church approved ministries and to provide parish ministers with the opportunity for continuing education in their ministry. The present staff is two Franciscan Sisters and one Jesuit. Only the director serves in a full time position.

Parishes Served: The number of remote village parishes served increased from 17 to 23 with the addition of Aniak, Holy Cross, Stebbins, St. Michael, and Unalakleet.

Staffing: The first salaried Yup'ik Eskimo were employed as staff. One or two Eskimos have been staff members since September, 1999. Currently the program is operating with a minimal staff of one full time and two 1/3 time personnel.

Ministry: In response to a request from catechists and professional staff, a sequential culturally appropriate Catechetical Curriculum Teacher's Manual with detailed lesson plans was developed in house for levels 1-8. With the revised diocesan Sacramental Guidelines of 2007, a curriculum for First Penance and Reconciliation, Reception of First Eucharist and Confirmation has been provided to the catechists. These three sacramental preparation programs for our region incorporate the new requirements for a readiness interview, retreat and greater parent and parish community participation in the sacramental preparation programs. Major weekend training workshops for Catechists both centrally at St. Marys and sub-regionally in host parishes have been and continue to be conducted to assist catechists to become familiar with the curriculum materials.

Detailed training to both Deacon and Lay Prayer Leaders of the Revised 2007 USCCB Rite for Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest are being conducted. With few priests in the region for 23 parishes, various ministry materials have been provided to parish Prayer Leaders for all liturgical functions such as prayers for the sick and dying, the 5 funeral rites, Triduum presiding rites, and materials for leading Sunday gatherings for all liturgical seasons plus major feasts for Mary and the Saints. Both weekend workshops and numerous onsite parish trainings are conducted to prepare Prayer Leaders approved by the bishop. With a greater number of parishes with only lay presiders, training was initiated to prepare laity to give a brief explanation of the Sunday readings. Some Prayer Leaders were selected to prepare a brief reflection on the Sunday gospel to be recorded in both English and Eskimo and broadcasted on the diocesan radio station as a further training and aid for preparing homilies especially by the Native deacons and Lay Ministers of the Word.

Several Head Catechists, Catechists, and Acting Parish Administrators, Eucharistic Ministers and Ministers of the Word have completed all requirements for NMTP certification in their ministry.

Other areas of change/growth: Improved frequency of published articles of NMTP activities; posting catechetical trainings on diocesan web page for the Y-K Region; continue with staff In-Service trainings and participation in National Conferences.