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
“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,”
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”
“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
“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