The Ministry Formation Institute was founded by Most Reverend Bishop Gerald Barnes in 1998. Bishop Barnes had been calling for a renewed vision of ministry formation, and after several years of planning and consultative work, a new “Ministry Formation Institute”, (MFI), was inaugurated. MFI was the first bilingual basic level formation program to prepare all ministers to serve in their parishes for the diocese and to certify all catechists. It replaced the Bishop Straling Leadership Institute and the “Escuela de Ministerios.”
MFI started as a program of the Office of Religious Education and Formation (OREF), under the Department of Educational Services (MES), directed by Sr. Alice Molina, R.S.H.M. who was the director of both, the Department and the Office of Religious Education and Formation (OREF). The first MFI course was taught over a period of six months, in 1998, it was taught in roving locations. It started with one bilingual weekend workshop, followed by three mini-theology courses (Experience of God, Jesus, and Church). Students completed the program by participating in specialized training in a Ministry. After completion of the entire program, students received a Diocesan Certificate in Pastoral Ministry with a Specialization in a specific ministry. In 2002, the Coordinators Ministry Formation Program was born. A three-year advanced lever theological formation program.
At the time, the Parish Ministers Formation Program was named MFI. In 2005, MFI: Ministry Formation Institute became an office under the Department of Ministry of Educational Services (MES), and the program was given the name Parish Ministers Formation Program also known by its acronym PMFP. In the fall of 2015, the Office of Ministry Formation Institute became its own Department under the direction of Maria H. Sedano.
This new department housed the Ministry Formation Institute and its two bilingual programs; PMFP and CMFP. In May 2017, the MFI Department added an intermediate program, the "Introduction to CMFP" to bridge the formation level between the PMFP and the CMFP, in 2018 MFI changed the meaning of the "C" in CMFP from "coordinators" to "continuing" and expanded its formation to include adults seeking enrichment and others seeking to serve as lay ecclesial ministers.
In 2018 we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the MFI foundation with a renewed energy to continue serving the diocese and forming adults and lay ministers for service in their communities of faith.
In March of 2020, PMFP launched its program online and closing the bridge between the far away parishes such as St. Joan of Arc in Blythe and St. Ann in Needles. Ministers are able to attend the program without having to leave the comfort of their own homes.
In 2019 the MFI established the process for Lay Ministry Certification for two major categories:
1) Ministerial Leadership for those serving in a specialized ministry such as catechesis, ministry with young Catholics, adult faith formation, liturgy, charity, and justice or life and dignity and
2) Pastoral Associates.
The Continuing Ministry Formation Program (CMFP) achieved certification of its formation standards and procedures by the USCCB Subcommittee on Certification of Lay Ecclesial Ministry and Service.
Today the Ministry Formation Institute offers four bilingual formation programs:
Parish Ministers Formation Program (PMFP)
Introduction to CMFP
Continuing Ministry Formation Program (CMFP)
Certification for Lay Ecclesial Ministers serving as Ministry Leaders and Pastoral Associates
In addition, MFI has a collaborative relationship with Catholic institutions of higher learning, such as St. Clara University and Loyola Marymount University who provide advanced certificates, BA completion and Master Degree programs.