Total Interior Renewal

Total Interior Renewal

Date published: August 8, 2016

Four years ago, Michelle Stone was still seeing her son through high school and working in a parish in the Seattle area. Fast forward and Michelle has traveled to Rome, studied with students around the world and is finishing up the master of theological studies program at the Ann and Joe O. Neuhoff School of Ministry.

Hailing from a rural area of Washington state, Michelle served for nine years in a parish in the Archdiocese of Seattle as a Pastoral Associate. Recently, however, she felt called to work towards a Master’s Degree in Theology to supplement other training she had received.

“Up to that point, any pastoral or administrative training for my job had been attained through Archdiocesan classes, seminars, RE Congress, the North American Forum on the Catechumenate and the Center for Ministry Development,” Michelle said.

As a Pastoral Associate, Michelle works alongside a pastor in all aspects of parish administration, facility management, catechesis, sacramental preparation and liturgical planning.

“In 2012, I felt the time was right for me and my development as a lay minister to make a greater commitment to my faith and my ministry by pursuing a Master’s degree,” Michelle said.

With her youngest child in his senior year of high school, Michelle would soon have much more time on her hands. With all of this in mind, she began looking at graduate programs in ministry.

Michelle recalls one application essay in which she expressed the vision of earning her Master’s Degree as her “new evangelization,” her opportunity for “a total interior renewal... a radical conversion, a profound change of mind and heart” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 10:24).

“When I wrote that almost four years ago, I had no idea what the full depth and meaning of that prayer would have for me,” Michelle said. “I have certainly experienced a total interior renewal and a profound change of mind and heart.”

Because of the flexibility and diversity of the program at the University of Dallas Neuhoff School of Ministry, Michelle made her decision.

“It would allow me to remain working and I could have a mix of online and on-campus classes,” Michelle said.

Michelle went on to take 9 online courses, 2 onsite courses and a Vatican II class in Rome last summer. Her experiences in the Neuhoff School of Ministry ranged from her internship in the tribunal to her capstone, in which she researched and explore the nature of a parish as it pertains to the theology, law, experience and tradition of the Church over the past 2000 years.

“I have appreciated the opportunity to share my faith experience with students and professors from all over the United States and from other places in the world,” Michelle said. “It allows me to share what my experience in ministry has been and to learn from their unique experiences as well.”

Michelle referenced Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans as pivotal in her decision to pursue further education in ministry, particularly the following verses: “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith; if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching; if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness” (Rom 12:6-8).

“Saint Paul calls on each of us to exercise these gifts in our life,” Michelle said.

Such lessons in scripture, both through personal reflection and through classes at the Ann and Joe O. Neuhoff School of Ministry, have helped Michelle see God’s plan for her in her life and her call to share the gifts that God has given her through ministry.

“To say that I have had a rich experience at the University of Dallas would simply be a gross understatement,” Michelle said. “Day in and day out in my ministry, I am given the opportunity to touch others’ lives in sometimes the most joyful, sorrowful or grace-filled moments. I get to experience Christ in them and to share Christ with them.”

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