St. John's Seminary lay formation presents lay formation degrees

BRIGHTON -- Bridget Whyte had not attended a Mass in 25 years. But when her children were about to start CCD, she decided to bring them to a Mass so they could see what it was like.

She only planned to go once, but she ended up finding her spiritual home at St. Mary Parish in Foxborough. She came back to the sacraments and volunteered in various capacities in the parish. This led her to hear about the Lay Formation Program offered by St. John's Seminary, and she applied for admission less than two years after her return to the Church.

Whyte reflected on this journey as she addressed her classmates, their families and friends, and others in the St. John's Seminary community during a graduation and commencement ceremony following Mass in the seminary's chapel on May 22. Whyte was one of five graduates receiving their diplomas this year.

The Master of Arts in Ministry degree was presented to Deacon Jim Hyatt, Eileen Klapprodt, Deacon James Rice Jr., and Bridget Whyte. Deacon John Minch received a Master of Theological Studies degree.

Deacon Hyatt and Deacon Rice assisted in the Mass, for which Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley was the principal celebrant. After the Mass, the diplomas were presented to the graduates, and Whyte delivered her remarks.

Whyte, who recently joined the staff of the Tri-Parishes of Brockton, expressed gratitude on behalf of her classmates to their families who supported them and enabled them to pursue their studies.

She also addressed her two children, who are 12 and 14 years old, whom she said are about the same age she was when she stopped attending CCD and pulled back from the Church. She said they are the reason she and her husband began attending Mass again, and the reason they were all together at the graduation.

Whyte expressed her hope that her children will also choose to follow Christ for themselves, while assuring them that "your faith life may not be a straight line."

"Please know that even when you don't believe in God, he believes in you, and he's working through you," she told them.

Dr. Anthony Coleman, the director of the MAM/MTS programs, also offered brief remarks. Summer classes had begun two days earlier, including a class he is teaching on liturgy and the sacraments. He shared that during the first session, with the upcoming graduation on his mind, a passage they read from "Sacrosanctum Concilium," paragraph 2, resonated with him.

"The fathers of the Second Vatican Council talk about the liturgy building up from within, and then sending out into mission," Coleman explained.

Addressing the graduates, he said, "we've done our part -- and whatever good we've done has been through the grace of the Holy Spirit -- to help build you up from within. And now it's your vocations to go out and preach, govern, and sanctify in the world."

For Deacon Rice, pursuing his MAM degree was a way of continuing the formation he received in preparation for the diaconate. He was ordained in 2021 and assigned to Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted Parish in Waltham. His diaconal formation satisfied all but a few of the MAM course requirements, and he thought he might take the remaining courses, since having the degree might be helpful to him in future assignments.

"It really is part of a journey to continue to learn more and more. So, this is a milestone, but I don't want it to be the end of the road. I want to continue," Deacon Rice said after the ceremony.

Eileen Klapprodt, a longtime catechist from St. Rose of Lima Parish in Topsfield, initially came to St. John's Seminary to attend their summer Bible studies. She will be teaching middle school theology at St. John's Preparatory School in Danvers this fall.

For her, the MAM program has been an experience of not only learning about God but also learning about herself.

"I've learned more about who I am as a beloved child of God and (how) God is calling me. So, it's been a beautiful journey of self-awareness, but also learning how to share my gifts and talents with the world, kind of my mission. I'm grateful for this program," Klapprodt said.