Growing in the Faith as a “Cradle Catholic”
Date published: March 23, 2017
Jennifer Guilbeau, a graduate of the Ann and Joe O. Neuhoff Institute for Ministry & Evangelization, grew up a self-described “cradle Catholic” in Texas. After completing her Bachelor
of Science in Chemistry at Texas A&M University, Guilbeau felt the call to study ministry,
and she found herself in the Master’s of Theological Studies at the University of Dallas.
Tell me a little about yourself.
JG: I grew up a cradle Catholic and I received all of my sacraments except for marriage
at my home parish. Every Sunday my Mom and I would sing in the choir and our parish
community became very important to me. Toward the end of college I had a conversion
experience and desired to know more about my faith and to become more involved in
my parish. With the help of the wonderful campus ministers at St. Mary's in College
Station, the Sisters of the Apostles of the Interior Life and the other college students
there, I was able to learn so much and fall in love with our Catholic faith. Over
time I realized that my love for theology and ministry was more than just a hobby
and so I decided to apply to the UD Neuhoff Institute for Ministry & Evangelization
and to look for a job in ministry. I have worked in Pro-Life Ministry, Campus Ministry
and taught High School Theology as well as volunteered on CORE teams for High School
Youth Ministry programs for several years.
What was the experience at the Neuhoff Institute for Ministry & Evangelization like
JG: I finally felt like I was at home. I was always good at math and science but after
college never found a job that I truly enjoyed. With ministry I felt like I had finally
found my calling and the Neuhoff Institute for Ministry & Evangelization helped me
get there. The Neuhoff Institute was the perfect balance of theology and practical
application and helped prepare me to be an effective lay minister. The readings and
assignments were challenging but because I truly enjoyed their content and could see
their practicality and usefulness in ministry, I didn't mind doing them.
How has this degree played a role in what you are doing now?
JG: I currently teach 10th grade Ecclesiology and Sacraments and 12th grade Bioethics
and use my degree every single day. I regularly reference my former reading materials
and assignments and I also daily utilize skills that I learned during my time earning
this degree such as being pastoral in various situations and correctly citing Church
What is unique about the Ann and Joe O. Neuhoff Institute for Ministry & Evangelization?
JG: The small class sizes and the accessibility of the professors. Dialogue with classmates
and professors is easy to do and incredibly enlightening. It is easy to ask questions
and to learn so much from others' experiences in addition to your own. The wise insights
and array of experiences of others have been a priceless gift from my time at the
Neuhoff Institute and I am so grateful.
What surprised you about your program?
JG: How little I knew! I spent time reading and studying on my own before beginning
my degree, but with each class that I took, I became more and more aware there was
infinitely more to learn about God and about ministry and that certain things can
only be learned through prayer and experience.
How has your experience at the Neuhoff Institute for Ministry & Evangelization shaped
you personally and professionally?
JG: Professionally, I have met some incredibly talented and kind pastoral ministers
and professors who are a wealth of knowledge and guidance and I have learned so much
from them. Additionally, I have made contacts from all over both dioceses who I can
call when I need something or if I happen to be searching for a new position.
Personally, the Neuhoff Institute has shaped me into being a better wife, mother,
daughter, and teacher who has come to better understand the meaning of the phrase:
"this is my body given up for you" (Luke 22:19). Each time I hear those words at Mass,
I come to reflect on the ways in which I am called to live out my vocation during
my short time on earth and love as Christ loved.