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Seventeen students graduated from the St. John’s Seminary Master of Arts in Ministry degree program on May 25 in St. John’s Chapel. The program, at the end of its fourth year, now has 46 alumni.
Bishop Richard G. Lennon, moderator of the curia and former rector at St. John’s, addressed the graduates at their commencement. He spoke of the beauty of the chapel referring to six images of saints on the walls that depict six “masters of Catholic teaching, of theology” who “learned about the faith and, in turn, they shared it.”
Learning is one of the four components of formation, he said, noting that the others are human, spiritual and pastoral development.
In his address, Bishop Lennon recalled a talk on academics he gave to students shortly after becoming rector at St. John’s in 1999.
He said he told the students, “I hear tell that there’s at least one of you here that sees your journey through the seminary about the human development upon which the spiritual is built which then inspires you to do the pastoral.”
He said that view is misguided because it devalues academic formation.
When academic formation is neglected, human, spiritual and pastoral formation are also stymied, the bishop continued.
“Then the academic is over there — it’s unrelated. Let me tell you for the one person who feels that way, you are humanly deformed, spiritually corrupt and pastorally useless,” said Bishop Lennon.
The saints depicted in St. John’s did not see learning as an obstacle, instead it was at the heart of their lives and was how they interacted with others, he added.
“When we learn about God and the things of God, it is not just for our memory. It rather becomes the way we live and act. The blessing that these graduates have had, a formation program that is complete, is in fact what the Church asks of all who serve the ministry of Christ,” Bishop Lennon said.
“Now, as you go forward as graduates of the Master of Arts in Ministry Program at St. John’s Seminary, you share all of that with parishioners, friends, family and the wider community,” he said to the students.
Following his remarks, the candidates received their degree from St. John’s rector Father John Farren and were congratulated by Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley.
Following the awarding of degrees, Aldonna Lingertat, associate director of the Master of Arts in Ministry program, spoke about the graduates before introducing the student speaker. Many of the 17 graduates began their studies in the program’s first year. They are Catholics who live their faith and are committed to their Church, she said.
“In the admissions interviews we would find that each of them had a great thirst to know more about their Catholic faith, to deepen their spirituality, to grow humanly and pastorally,” she added.
Six of the graduates are full-time Catholic high school teachers or campus ministers, two work in higher education, five are involved in teaching religious education in their parish and four are professionals. Student speaker Janet Ryan, from St. Barbara Parish in Woburn, teaches at St. Mary High School in Lynn. She will be relocating to Chicago to enter discernment with the Franciscan Sisters and has shown “perseverance, good humor and a deep love for God, for others and in a special way for the Church” throughout her time at St. John’s, Lingertat said.
Ryan said she hardly felt worthy to give the address at commencement, but joins her classmates in seeking to answer why God has given them the abundant blessings of the program at St. John’s. Ryan added that she was reminded of the words in John’s Gospel, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.”
“We are called to holiness, to live virtuously in truth and love, to receive the word of God in good soil, to cultivate it, nurture it and allow it to bear fruit,” she said.
“By being humble witnesses to Christ’s fidelity and love, we evangelize in communion with one another and with the larger Church. Our formation together here enriches, enlightens and empowers us in a peaceful way,” she continued. “Our daily decisions and actions speak loudly with the intentions of our heart, especially when we speak up for the poor and the marginalized and stand against injustices and unfair treatment of individuals.”
After her address, Archbishop O’Malley gave the benediction, saying that “the human heart is always hungry for God,” and God has given us ways to know Him through the prophets, the Bible, Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church.
People of faith must listen to God in order to discover who they are and what they are called to do. The graduates have listened to God and have chosen to live their faith more intensely, he said.
“We rejoice because they have been enriched by this program, and they in turn are going to enrich the lives of other people with the fruits of the knowledge, wisdom and experience of God in this program,” the archbishop said.
The Masters of Arts in Ministry program began in 2000 with 28 students. There are now 100 lay people taking graduate-level courses and 77 of those are seeking a master’s degree. This year’s graduating class is the largest so far.
The entire program takes place in the evenings and includes 14 classes, field education and human and spiritual formation. Most students complete the program in three or four years. The faculty of the program is a combination of St. John’s faculty and others who work in the archdiocese.
Allison Gill said her husband, Robert, a campus minister and theology teacher at Xaverian Brothers High School in Westwood, entered the program four years ago. The graduation fell on their second wedding anniversary. They have a 10-month-old daughter.
“It definitely was a lot of hard work,” Allison said of the program, adding that Robert stayed up late many nights working on papers and studying.
Both Allison and Robert decided together that he would enter the program, and she tried to be as involved and helpful as possible.
“We persevered,” she said. “Today is a very happy day for our family.”
Brother Patrick Reilly, BH, is the fourth member of the Brotherhood of Hope to complete the program. He spent three years in the program, attending classes full-time the last year in order to finish.
Brother Patrick, who is also a campus minister at Boston University, said his schedule allowed for him to balance his classes.
“I am grateful to be able to get my theology education completed,” he said, adding that he has been assigned to BU full-time next year.
Patricia Mikus completed the program in four years and was busy raising four children, helping her husband with his business and doing volunteer work when she was not studying. She entered the program in order to learn more about her faith and was challenged in ways she had not anticipated, she said.
“It makes you dig your heels in and makes you recommit to your faith in a new and exciting way,” she said.