The MTS program prepared me for the joy of campus ministry

byMelissa LaNeve

Melissa LaNeve (center) is pictured at her Masters of Theological Studies commencement at St. John's Seminary. Courtesy Photo

Six months after graduating from Stonehill College, I found myself in Wisconsin discerning whether to apply for a second year for youth-ministry and retreat-ministry volunteer work with SPIRITUS ministries. Instead, much to my surprise, God placed graduate school on my heart. Through internet searches, I was led to the graduate degree programs for lay, deacons, and religious at St. John's Seminary. After learning more about the programs and speaking with the school, I immediately began filling out my application. While I felt that God was drawing me to work in college campus ministry, I didn't wish to follow a degree program purely focused on ministry. The Master of Theological Studies (MTS) degree at St. John's Seminary provided everything I felt I would need for ministry on a college campus, as well as the skills for evangelization for other areas of college life.

Throughout my three years of study at St. John's, I was able to meet and learn from such a wide variety of people -- people of different ages, from many professional backgrounds, even those with religious vocations. We were all different, but all were enrolled in order to grow closer to Our Lord, and understand the Catholic faith more fully, and develop skills to bring the Good News to the rest of the world.

The courses specific to the MTS degree that I enjoyed most were Theology of the Body, Trinity, and New Evangelization. A shout-out must go to Dr. Angela Franks for those amazing classes, and specifically for preparing me so well for them through her very challenging Faith and Reason course in my first semester!

Another of my favorite components specific to the MTS program was the Evangelizing the Culture requirement. Within certain guidelines, we could pick any project we wanted that would be a means of evangelizing others. This gave me the chance to unleash my personal creativity. I chose to run a daily Lenten reflection program via emails and Instagram, entitled "Present Catholic: Participate Don't Anticipate." (The Instagram account is still up for one to check out: @presentcatholic.) I promoted it to anyone who would like to participate, but I was specifically reaching out to young adults. I had an amazing response, and it was a fun way to put into use all I'd learned over my time in the MTS program.

Since graduating in 2017, I have been blessed to do what I felt God was originally calling me to do, plus so much more. At the beginning of 2017, I connected with a new Catholic young-adult organization just in its inception, JESUS aCross the Border, and ended up becoming one of the founding members. This amazing organization, now a 501©(3) nonprofit, has the mission of uniting all Catholic young-adult groups and being a central platform for young adults to find the faith-based community that best fits their needs. Affectionately known as JATB, we've hosted dozens of worship, service, and pilgrimage events for young adults all across New England and beyond. It was on account of the focus on evangelization in the MTS degree that I felt confident in being a leader for this organization.

Shortly after graduating in May 2017, by the grace of God and the prayers of St. Anne, I got a job at Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusetts, as the assistant director of Campus Ministry and Community Outreach. A year later, I became the director of Campus Ministry. Now in my fourth year at the college, it has been amazing to watch the students embrace their faith, ask questions, take chances, and grow so much. The undergraduate period is such a unique time for young adults as they are pulled in a million different directions. Knowing what to believe and who to turn to can be completely overwhelming. I give them so much credit for asking the tough questions, and I give my formation through the MTS program so much credit for preparing me with the skills and knowledge to help answer those questions. Although I certainly recognize that there is always more to learn, I would not feel as capable as I do in this current role if I had not received the amazing education that the Master of Theological Studies degree at St. John's Seminary has afforded me. It has been an absolute joy of mine to be able to help other young adults, whether in college or beyond, to find a faith-based community -- community which I longed for myself for many years. I thank all the professors, administrators, and peers of St. John's Seminary who were there for me every step of the way as I took the deep dive into Truth!