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Mayuli Bale's BIG IDEA Featured in The Catholic Magazine

Updated: Dec 9, 2023

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Donelle Poling speaks with Sandy Garcia and Rocio Meza-Barajas during a course at the Emmaus Institute. Photo by Paul Middlestaedt

The following excerpt was written by Mary L. Parks and published Nov. 29, 2023 in The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine of the Diocese of St. Cloud. The BIG IDEA was sponsored with funding from Bridge Builders for a Thriving Mission.

New Emmaus course emphasizes accompaniment in formation of youth

When Rocio Meza-Barajas first heard about Emmaus Institute during a Bible study, she thought, “Four years is a long time.” But after making the commitment to attend, she never regretted it.

“It is amazing what you find out,” Meza-Barajas said. “You dig and dig and don’t want it to end. One question would get answered and another would pop up.” The Emmaus Institute is an intellectual and ministerial formation program for lay ministers and potential Latino/Hispanic diaconal candidates from the Diocese of St. Cloud, in partnership with Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary. Students attend one Saturday a month, September through May, for four years, and the program provides courses in English and Spanish.

Meza-Barajas, who serves as a greeter and usher at her parish of St. Andrew in Elk River, said her favorite class at the Institute was Christology, the study of Jesus Christ. “You realize you don’t know him like you think. We don’t know him until we spend time with him,” she said.

When her four years at the Emmaus Institute were over, Meza-Barajas just wanted to keep going. According to Kristi Bivens, director of lay leadership formation for the diocese, other graduates of the Institute feel the same way.

“They are always asking ‘What’s next?’” Bivens said.

While Meza-Barajas and her classmates were finishing up at the Emmaus Institute, Mayuli Bales, director of Multicultural Ministries, was noticing a need for more youth programming in the diocese.

According to Bales, this need is particularly strong within the Hispanic community, where youth are bicultural. “They are growing up in two different worlds and their families are changing as a result. It has a social impact,” Bales said.

Learn More about this Project

To learn more about Foundations for Youth Ministry or the Emmaus Institute, contact Kristi Bivens, associate director for Lay Leadership Formation, at 320-258-7642 or at

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What’s Your Big Idea?

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