Story by Mary Stadnyk, Associate Editor
As Terry Ginther sees it, her commitment to service as a ministry leader and pastoral planner began with “someone who spoke the Word of God into my life more than 30 years ago.”
Now, as the recipient of the prestigious 2016 Lumen Gentium Award, Ginther can see that her work for the Church has been inspired by that encounter ever since.
Ginther, who has served as the executive director of the Diocese’s Office of Pastoral Life and Mission since 2011, recently reflected on her professional and ministerial path: “That Word transformed my way of thinking and has set me on a path that has had many turns. All along the way, I have continued to hear the Gospel calling me to more love, more mercy, to reconcile and to heal – to become a small reflection of the Word in the every day of life and ministry,” Ginther said.
The National Conference for Pastoral Planning and Council Development recognized Ginther’s commitment to the work of pastoral planning April 19 in Chicago during its 43rd annual convention.
The Lumen Gentium (“Light of the Nations”) award is named for the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, which is a document that primarily focuses on the Church’s universal call to holiness and encouraging the active participation of the laity.
According to the CPPCD, the award recognizes distinguished pastoral leadership in the utilization of planning and broad consultation processes; initiative and creativity in responding to parish or diocesan changing needs; significant contributions to raising awareness of the principles of the document, and a significant number of people, structures or programs influenced.
Vision, Knowledge, Wisdom
Deacon Charlie Hiebler, former member of the CPPCD board of directors, said that Ginther was selected based on her “leadership, guidance and wisdom in regard to pastoral planning and dedication to CPPCD.”
“Terry is a visionary in many ways,” said Deacon Hiebler, noting that that board has followed Ginther’s work in the Diocese. He also commended her readiness to support and offer suggestions and ideas to people from other dioceses and CPPCD members.
Ginther, in accepting the award, said she found it “startling to be included among the auspicious prior recipients of this award, whose contributions far exceed my accomplishments and years of service.”
“I recognize, however, in this award, the acknowledgment of my service; service that is not so different from other planning directors around the country, who do their best to quietly share a vision for collaborative structures that help to nurture the kingdom of God emerging in the world,” she said.
Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., welcomed the news of Ginther’s award and affirmed her selection. He said, “The Diocese of Trenton is blessed to have someone with Terry Ginther’s sense of mission and expertise to help lead us through the critical work of planning for our future.
“The Lumen Gentium Award is most-fitting recognition for all that Terry is and does, and we consider it an honor for the entire Diocese of Trenton to have her commended in this way,” the Bishop said.
Msgr. Leonard F. Troiano, the Diocese’s episcopal vicar for planning, has been collaborating with Ginther since mid-2015 on laying the groundwork for the diocesan Faith in Our Future initiative, which was officially inaugurated during the Advent season. They also serve together on the Diocesan Expansion and Restructuring Commission.
“Over the years, Terry has come to know the parishes and ministries in the Diocese, and her knowledge of pastoral planning is a great asset in helping us to move forward with the Faith in Our Future planning initiative,” said Msgr. Troiano. “Since I began working with Terry, I have come to the knowledge that she is highly respected not only within the Diocese but also among her peers who work in pastoral planning at the national level.
“It’s not surprising that she would have been the one chosen for this prestigious award. It not only recognizes her work as an individual, but also brings national recognition and honor to the Diocese of Trenton,” he said.
Service to the Church
Ginther hails from Wall Township and is a member of St. Denis Parish, Manasquan. She and her husband, Adam, have two grown children, Nicholas and Katy.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Va., and a master’s degree in pastoral ministry from Caldwell College, Caldwell.
Her early work for the Church found her serving as pastoral associate for Christian formation in St. Mary of the Lake Parish, Lakewood, which included full implementation of the parish’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process, other faith formation and bible studies, parish mission planning and leadership development. She was part of a four-person faith formation team who were responsible for the parish religious education program, a family-based model for sacramental preparation and a family-based catechesis program.
She also worked with a consultation team called the Parish Transformation Institute, doing parish structural renewal and leadership development work in a variety of parishes around the Diocese.
In 2002, Ginther began her first diocesan position as associate director of the Office of Catechesis. In 2007, she was named diocesan director of pastoral planning and in 2011, Bishop O’Connell named her to her current position on the Diocesan Curia.
Guiding Multiple Initiatives
As executive director of Pastoral Life and Mission, Ginther leads the Department of Pastoral Planning and oversees the Departments of Youth, Marriage and Family Life, and Pastoral Care; as well as the areas of campus ministry; movements and retreat houses. Ginther also serves on the Diocesan Expansion and Restructuring Commission.
In her diocesan role, Ginther works with pastors to establish parish pastoral councils and undertake planning for ministry. Ginther guided the development of “Led By the Spirit – A Pastoral Plan for the Diocese of Trenton” from 2007-2009, which introduced broad-based online surveys and regional consultation through the deaneries of the Diocesan Pastoral Council to determine the priorities about which people felt most strongly.
In 2014-2015, she coordinated the work of committees to create the Plan for Ministry Among Spanish-speaking Catholics and the Plan for Strengthening Marriage in the Diocese of Trenton.
“Both initiatives are slowly but surely having an impact on the way we do ministry in the Diocese,” she said. Earlier this year, she began working with Msgr. Troiano and others to help lead Faith in Our Future, the first time the Diocese will involve every parish in planning at the same time.
“All of these processes have engaged hundreds of the baptized in ways to move forward together – speaking the Word of God by what we say and what we do,” Ginther said. “It is sacred work; the work of an open heart. I am indeed blessed to carry it out with dedicated colleagues and companions.”
Ginther has continued her professional development through a number of venues, including the Diocesan Educational and Catechetical Leadership Institute, St. Mary’s Center for Continuing Formation, Baltimore; Certificate Program in Council Development and Pastoral Planning, St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minn.; Church Management Institute, Villanova University Center for the Study of Church Management, Villanova, Pa.; and Tending the Talents Parish and Diocesan Leadership Development Program, Catholic Leadership Institute, Wayne, Pa.
The CPPCD has presented the Lumen Gentium Award since 1993. Ginther is the second recipient from the Trenton Diocese to be honored with the award. Bishop-Emeritus John M. Smith had been named an award recipient in 2009.
Other notable recipients have included Bishop Edward U. Kmiec, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate and the Siobhan Verbeek of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Office on Canonical Practices.