Exploring the “Current Horizons” of Theology

Exploring the “Current Horizons” of Theology

Date published: November 30, 2016

People from all walks of life enter into ministry, whether they’re “cradle Catholics” or they 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. Assistant Professor Diana Raiche, Ph.D., and Affiliate Assistant Professor Dan Luby, S.T.L., S.T.D., 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. Associate Professor of theology Marti Jewell, D.Min., 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 professionally?

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.

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