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Encounter School of Ministry evangelizes and activates the faithful

A Diocese of Boise group attended the regional Encounter conference in Dallas last May. The event included presentations by Father Mathias Thielen, co-founder of Encounter Ministries (back, center).

By Deacon Scott Pearhill

ICR Editor

The idea of having an Encounter School of Ministry in our diocese began in 2019 when Bishop Peter was reading Confirmation letters. He was particularly impressed by the experience of the Lord shared by the youth in Cindy Anderson’s Confirmation class at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Boise. He called Anderson and asked about the richness of her class. The youth director told Bishop Peter about Encounter Ministry and explained she was sharing the fruit of her own growth in her relationship with God.

Bishop Peter thought it would be great if all parishes had the opportunity to benefit from Encounter, but COVID-19 put his plans on hold.

Then, in January 2022, Dr. Mary Healy, S.T.D., Theological Curriculum Advisor & Instructor for Encounter Ministries, spoke at St. Mark’s in Boise. Bishop Peter was renewed in his desire to start an Encounter school in Idaho. A test group was recruited from employees at the Diocesan Pastoral Center, and the discovery process began.

That same group from the Diocesan Pastoral Center will soon graduate from Encounter’s two-year online program. They will become facilitators for the initial Diocese of Boise school serving the Treasure Valley. After the program is established in Boise, the desire is to see it take root in the other deaneries around the state.

Christian Welp, director of special projects for the Diocese of Boise, said establishing an Encounter School of Ministry in a particular diocese is a rigorous and methodical process, beginning with a required letter of approval from the local bishop. Welp, who has nearly completed the two-year academic program, has also worked through the process that allows the Diocese to host its own school in Boise.

Encounter’s teaching is rooted in sacred Scripture, the writings of the Church Fathers, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. For Welp, the school of ministry focuses on evangelization and activation, which leaves us in a different position than when we started. He describes it as one way to fulfill the injunction of the Apostle Paul, “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom 12:2).

“Nothing prevents the Holy Spirit from moving in us in the same way the Spirit moved through Jesus and the Apostles,” said Vicar General Father Caleb Vogel, who is also set to graduate from Encounter’s online program.

“Encounter teaches that no one receives a second-class baptism,” said Father Vogel. “We were all baptized with the same Spirit. There are no second-class citizens in the Kingdom of Heaven, no second-class sons and daughters of God.” Father Vogel also explained that Encounter helps us see the only thing preventing us from receiving all that the Lord wants to do in us — is us.

Welp referenced Jesus’ own baptism, during which the heavens opened, and the Spirit of the Lord came down in the form of a dove. “Encounter helps us see the heavens have never closed. In Christ, we live under an open heaven,” Welp said. He added that Encounter helps us ask, “Do we pray like the heavens are opened to us?”

Father Vogel spoke about the Apostles and faithful of the early Church, saying they “didn’t have fuller access to God’s will than us. Rather, they were more docile to the” nudges” of the Holy Spirit. In Acts of the Apostles, we read about the disciples receiving an inspiration from the Holy Spirit (a nudge) to talk to a particular person or travel to a particular town. The difference between the disciples and most of us is that they cooperated with those nudges.”

Father Vogel noted that the Apostles’ actions often lead to miracles, healing, and, most importantly, con-version to Christ. “Encounter School of Ministry seeks to deepen our relationship with the Spirit of Christ so that we can have the same confidence as the Apostles, allowing us to step out in faith and lead people to Christ in his Church,” Father Vogel said.

The Encounter School of Ministry website notes that most people don’t experience supernatural moments in their everyday lives: “There is a big disconnect between their own experiences and those in stories of scripture or the lives of the saints. If deep down you know Jesus Christ did not die for a powerless church, then you may be looking for ‘the more’ that is promised by God.” The Encounter program helps the faithful to grow in their trust and reliance on the Holy Spirit to renew their minds and transform their lives.

Three events will lead to the fall kick-off. On April 10 and June 12, an introduction and invitation to join the program will be held at St. Mark’s Catholic Church in Boise. On August 2 and 3, a two-day event at St. Mark’s will include an introduction, teaching, and prayer and will orient those who will start the process in September.

For more information or to RSVP, email

If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.

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FAX: (208) 342-0224

1501 S. FEDERAL WAY, SUITE 400, BOISE, ID 83705

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