New Programs for Lay Ministers Now Available
The University of St. Thomas School of Theology is launching several initiatives to better serve lay ministers in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. They include a newly revised Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry and a pilot off-site extension program.
The initiatives are prompted, in part, by a document on lay ministry issued last November by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The statement, Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord, recognizes that increasing responsibilities are being entrusted to lay ministers and makes recommendations for their training, work, and supervision.
Seizing the initiative, the University of St. Thomas took the academic guidelines presented in Co-Workers as the framework for rethinking its Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS). The MAPS is a 36-hour degree program designed with professional lay ministers in mind and suitable for anyone who wants to learn more about the Catholic faith and tradition.
The MAPS is one of several degree programs offered at the UST School of Theology, which is located on the campus of St. Mary’s Seminary on Memorial Drive. The School of Theology also provides the theological instruction to the seminarians at St. Mary’s, and to candidates for the permanent diaconate in Galveston-Houston and other dioceses in Texas. These programs, like the MAPS, are designed according to guidelines from the Bishops’ Conference.
The process of redesigning the MAPS began a year ago, when the early drafts of Co-Workers were being discussed by the USCCB. From day one, the process included not only faculty members from the School of Theology but also representatives from the Secretariat for Pastoral and Educational Ministries of the Archdiocese. The goal was to design an academic program that could be part of a more comprehensive approach to preparing and supporting lay ministers in the Archdiocese.
To assess the strengths and weaknesses of the original program, listening sessions were organized with graduates and current students. Prospective students were also invited to share their expectations and concerns about the program. Overwhelmingly, the participants in these sessions expressed a desire for a more substantial theological core to the program.
The committee charged with designing the new curriculum faced some difficult choices. The Bishops’ document—echoed by graduates of the program—called for considerably more theological content than had been required in the original curriculum. The authors of the new MAPS had to rethink some of the courses and restructure the program. The courses are designed to be theologically serious but without losing their pastoral, rather than strictly academic, focus. There are also institutes for pastoral skills, offered on weekends and conducted by seasoned ministers. Many of the institutes can be taken for credit and used as MAPS electives.
Archbishop DiNardo is warmly supportive of the new MAPS program and looks forward to applying Co-Workers in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. “The revised MAPS program is solidly grounded theologically,” he says, “and prepares our laity to collaborate with our priests and deacons to build up the Church.” This is exactly the kind of service the University hopes to render the local church, according to University President Dr. Robert Ivany. Dr. Ivany expressed confidence “that this very rewarding and enriching course of studies will make a major contribution to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.”
In order to make the new MAPS more accessible across the Archdiocese, the University also plans an extension program that would bring the MAPS courses to satellite locations. If enough students enroll, a pilot course at St. Ignatius of Loyola in Spring is planned to begin in January.
The MAPS Extension program grew out of initiatives by the Secretariat for Pastoral and Educational Ministries to make high quality theological education more widely available in the Archdiocese. Bro. Jim Barrette, S.M., Director of the Secretariat, approached the School of Theology with the idea of an extension program. Both sides agreed the most appropriate program to offer would be the MAPS, and that the first order of business would be to revisit the curriculum. Now that the new MAPS is in place, the Archdiocese and the University continue to cooperate closely to launch a viable extension program.
Founded in 1947 by the Basilian Fathers, UST is the only Catholic university in the Archdiocese. Since 1968, the UST School of Theology has provided the academic instruction at St. Mary’s Seminary. Through its new initiatives for lay pastoral ministers and its ongoing programs for priests and deacons, the University hopes to write another chapter in its long and fruitful service to the local church.
Anyone interested in learning more about the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies, or any of the School of Theology’s programs, can call Dr. Sandy Magie at 713-686-4345, or email email@example.com.
Published with permission of the Archdiocese of Galveston/Houston