The MAM degree program not only gave me inspiration and the tools for ministry, but it also filled my heart with the peace and love of Christ.
I was working at a faith formation festival in my parish when I believe that the Holy Spirit descended upon me in a blanket of warmth and love. A voice said to me, "You are meant to be here, doing what you are doing." Over the next few weeks, I perceived that the Holy Spirit came to me a few more times repeating the same words. (The Holy Spirit can be persistent!) I reflected upon these words and decided to do more by enrolling in the Master of Arts in Ministry (MAM) degree program at St. John's Seminary to begin my journey into lay ecclesial ministry.
My first two courses at St. John's were Foundational Theology and Pastoral Planning. I discovered not only that the courses in the MAM program were profoundly academic and theological in nature, but also very practical for taking up the work that must be done in a parish. The Pastoral Planning course was very useful for my future work in coordinating my parish pastoral planning efforts. Equally practical were the Human and Spiritual Formation and Field Education degree components that taught me how to pray, how to balance a life of ministry and how to work in a parish. My field education in bereavement prepared me well for working with grieving families and planning funeral liturgies. Moreover, as my classmates and I proceeded through the program, we bonded and formed friendships and networks which have lasted long after graduation.
I currently work as the pastoral associate for a Phase One three-church/ three-town collaborative in the archdiocese: Middleboro, Lakeville, and Rochester. I have all my MAM textbooks in my office and refer to them often. I run an adult faith formation program in my parish, where I inform my students that I attended St. John's Seminary and fill their heads with what I have learned! Every single day I use something I have learned in MAM in my ministry.
An especially valuable component of the MAM degree program was spiritual formation. My heart was ignited by a study of Ignatian spirituality and through it I began an exploration of my soul. I am a person with disabilities, and it is this exploration of my spirituality and the spirituality of disability that led me to assist the archdiocesan efforts in the area of Disability Ministry and to author "The Stations of the Cross for the Suffering, Ill, and Disabled" (TwentyThird Publications). My dream is to bring resources about spirituality, specifically to those with disabilities.
My life changed forever when I was called by God into ministry. The MAM degree program not only gave me inspiration and the tools for ministry, but it also filled my heart with the peace and love of Christ. Participating in the MAM degree program has been an amazing journey, and I expect that my broader life journey will continue to be amazing -- in no small part because of my participation in the MAM degree program. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as well as my MAM friends and alumni, are walking with me in love and hope. Won't you join us?
Holly Clark is pastoral associate in the Cranberry Catholic Collaborative of Middleboro, Lakeville and Rochester, and is a 2013 graduate of St. John's Seminary's Master of Arts in Ministry program.