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Athenaeum launches new ambassadors program

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

By Walt Schaefer

ST. FRANCIS DE SALES DEANERY — As the Catholic resource center of southwestern Ohio, the Athenaeum seeks to reach out to every Catholic in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s 19 counties, promoting awareness of the wealth of resources it offers.

Jerry Miller, chairperson of the Special Projects Committee of the Athenaeum Alumni Association Executive Committee, has been busy creating a new Athenaeum ambassador program — an effort to appoint an Athenaeum representative in each of the archdiocese’s 220 parishes.

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Jerry Miller, who is organizing the Athenaeum’s new ambassador program, is pictured here with his wife, Tommie. (Courtesy photo)

“The goal is to have one person in every parish (of the archdiocese) to receive information from the Athenaeum on a regular basis and, on occasion, send information back to the Athenaeum,” said Miller.

“Over the past several years,” Miller said, “the Athenaeum Alumni Association has worked to create a system of parish liaisons, people who could be e-mailed press releases for publication in the parish bulletin or posting on the parish bulletin board. This has worked well. Now there is a plan to expand its use.”

Ambassadors “will become the contact persons for the Athenaeum in their parishes. They will become the persons someone would seek out for answers concerning the Athenaeum. They would answer the simple questions and refer others to the right person at the Athenaeum,” Miller said. “This is a developing concept and to work at all, we need volunteers.”

To find volunteers Miller’s committee of six has been busy contacting parish pastors and existing parish liaisons. The committee consists of Miller; Bill Staun and Sharon Russo, former alumni association board members; Michael Lippman, a deacon candidate; Maggie Hunt, an alumna; and Shirley Soellner, an alumna and former Athenaeum development department employee.

Miller said he foresees a number of essential benefits the ambassador program will offer parishes and the Athenaeum beyond providing an avenue of discourse between ambassadors and parishioners.

“First of all, it is a way to have others come into the parish to talk about what religious life is all about and to encourage vocations,” he explained.  “Secondly, there are many people who hear about the Athenaeum, but perhaps because of their (distant) location or other restrictions they can’t participate. One of those areas is the Bishop Fenwick Society (BFS). In the future, a coordinated effort of ambassadors could facilitate new chapters of the BFS in parts of the archdiocese distant from the Athenaeum’s Cincinnati campus. Perhaps a number of people would like to have such opportunities but it’s too far to travel to participate. The ambassador program could germinate possible solutions.”

“Thirdly,” Miller said, “it has to get out to our graduates that the Athenaeum has evolved and adding their participation in that evolution is vital to continued growth. There is a lot of critical information that can be shared by the people at the Athenaeum. There are many on the faculty who bring Christ to our brothers and sisters in their specific ways, continually, and many learned priests, deacons and alumni who are serving in parishes who have been graced to bring the Gospel to those they serve through their ties to the Athenaeum.”

“It is our hope that through the Athenaeum, with the support and hard work of volunteer ambassadors in the parishes, there can be established small faith communities” supporting the Athenaeum and using its resources, he added.

Miller sees the parish ambassador as a person adept at introducing others to the Athenaeum and what is being offered to Catholics throughout the archdiocese. In addition, he views ambassador program as a particularly valuable tool for introducing newcomers to the city about opportunities they can enjoy and utilize from the Athenaeum.

If you or someone you know has an interest in becoming a parish ambassador, please contact Miller at geraldmiller@fuse.net.

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