Exploring the “Current Horizons” of Theology
Date published: October 24, 2016
People from all walks of life enter into ministry, whether they’re “cradle Catholics”
or discover the faith at a later stage through personal study or a series of life
experiences. Lauren White, MTS ‘16, is one such pastoral minister. Now, White is
beginning her first year as head of the religion department at a Catholic High School
in Seattle as well as her third year as a high school theology teacher; New horizons
are emerging for her.
What was the experience at Neuhoff School of Ministry like for you?
LW: Graduate study with the Neuhoff School of Ministry was a fantastic experience
for me! The classes presented our faith with depth and breadth. I was getting an authentic
education despite living in the midst of a culture and Church atmosphere that often
feels polarized. Learning from the heart of the Church's tradition, while still getting
to explore some of the current "horizons" of theology, has shaped me to be a grounded
minister and teacher of the faith. I learned not only theology, but also a lot of
pastoral and practical applications. This made it easy to take what I learned in class
and apply it immediately to my own life and to the lives of those to whom I minister.
How did you find the program’s online structure?
LW: I was blown away by the program’s online experience! I received quality instruction
through the recorded lectures, weekly professor feedback, and great discussions with
my fellow online learners. I was part of a community, even at such a great distance,
and I got to explore the depths of our faith through assignments and discussions.
It was a little sad signing off of my last class and saying goodbye to the professors
and fellow students with whom I had journeyed.
Is there a course or professor you particularly enjoyed?
LW: I loved the sacraments and liturgy class as well as systematic theology. Diana Raiche and Dan Luby really challenged me to have a broader perspective of our faith while at the same
time helping me to become more pastoral in my ministry to others. Marti Jewell helped me finish off my degree with a class on theological reflection which was a
perfect ending to my experience at University of Dallas. I felt safe in their hands
as I explored new ideas and grew into my new identity as a lay ecclesial minister.
How has your experience at the Neuhoff School of Ministry shaped you personally and/or
LW: My own faith and knowledge have deepened considerably through my studies. Theological
study has a way of shaking up your comfortable foundation of what you've always known,
and that can be a scary realization. But my Neuhoff School of Ministry experience
helped me to put back together the pieces into an even more beautiful and firm foundation.
I feel as if my perspective of faith has reached further back into history beyond
my own life, grounded in the history of the church, and extends far into the future
as I see the vision of the church's mission unfolding, along with the part I have
to play in it.
What was the process like to become a lay ecclesial minister? How had Neuhoff School
of Ministry helped to prepare you for this?
LW: Becoming a lay ecclesial minister is a process very much supported by my archdiocese
which is beautiful because there is such great need! Beyond getting a formal graduate
education, our archdiocese walked with us throughout the journey with regular meetings
and retreats. This opportunity to gather together and to be introduced to major ministries,
movements, and visions set forth within our archdiocese helped me to feel "plugged
in" to what's going on around me. At the end of the process, being formally commissioned
by our Archbishop has made me feel I have a responsibility to my archdiocese.
It is said that vocation is where your passions meet the church's needs, and it was
through this formation process that I was able to see this unfold. Growing in my skills
and learning my gifts and passions, while at the same time learning of the needs of
our local church and the wider church, it became more and more clear of who God is
calling me to be. A vocation is a calling, and my education at the school of ministry
helped me to better hear that call and know how to answer it. I pursued graduate studies
in theology because I love serving in ministry, and love our faith, but that was in
a very general way. Now I can easily see a very clear path in which God is calling
me to serve.
What inspired you to undergo further education to serve the church?
LW: As far back as middle school, I was serving in ministries to help enliven the
faith of other Catholics. After my undergraduate degree, where I majored in music
and psychology, I looked back at my life and saw that I loved ministry. I couldn't
really imagine a career that wasn't related to my faith somehow. So, I became a youth
minister. Having never attended Catholic schools, but only learning about my faith
through great youth ministers, personal study, and various religious organizations,
I decided to formalize this career path and to get the foundational education I might
be lacking. I saw this graduate education as a huge stepping stone to make me a better
minister. At the time I was in school I was doing youth and adult faith formation,
even RCIA classes, so I know that my theological studies were and will continue to
be a huge asset to serving people like this. Now as a Catholic high school theology
teacher, my graduate education has proven to be even more invaluable, especially because
the Neuhoff School of Ministry offers a Master of Theological Studies with a Secondary School Teaching Concentration. What a perfect degree for my current
ministry! This education prepared me to view this job as a ministry and a vocation.