What impacted me most in terms of my formation at the Theological Institute was the fellowship that I shared with my fellow students as well as the staff and faculty. I already came to the program with a deep desire to follow God's will for me and to serve him in his Church; what I did not expect, but clearly relished, was that my desire turned out to often be a shared desire. I was not alone!
Class sizes were small, and we quickly bonded with each other, often through class discussions and studying together before, after, or between classes. We also met as a group for spiritual formation, further bonding and growing in our interior life formation. Core courses were important in giving us a foundation in canon law, ecclesiology, Christology, philosophy, scripture, and Church history. Yet, one of my favorite classes was an independent study with Dr. Aldona Lingertat, which allowed three of us to delve deeply into pastoral care. Previously, a group of over 10 students had asked Dr. Lingertat to add a course in pastoral care to the list of electives. Our goal was to help her to plan a syllabus for such an elective course on pastoral care in the parish setting, including the objectives, the reading materials, and the assignments.
We divided lists of books, read them each week, and reported back what was helpful and best expressed the important insights in pastoral care. We discussed what key pastoral issues should be included in a course in pastoral care. It was a unique and highly rewarding experience for me.
I now work as a pastoral associate for my home parish -- St. Luke the Evangelist in Westborough. My work is varied and rich. I visit parishioners in our local hospitals. I oversee bereavement support and support for young men grappling with addiction. I work collaboratively with my pastor, DREs, and our associate pastor to further the vision and goals of our parish. I try to encourage and support the many wonderful adult faith formation endeavors that gifted leaders in our parish offer. I also oversee those who bring Communion to the homebound, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, independent living facilities, and one rehabilitation hospital. If it was only me bringing others Communion and fellowship to parishioners, I would be limited in those I could visit. By providing the training, ongoing support and opportunities for my volunteers to share and grow in these ministries, I feel our parish outreach is greatly enhanced. I'm always amazed at how a volunteer ends up being matched with exactly the right person for them. God is good.
I'm more confident, more aware of Church teachings, better able to bring and discuss pastoral issues with my pastor, and most importantly, help our pastor, parish staff, and pastoral council in renewing the spirituality and outreach within our parish setting -- all because of the excellent formation I received at the Theological Institute.
In short, I have the envious position where my passion in life matches my work!
JULIE BASQUE IS PASTORAL ASSOCIATE AT ST. LUKE THE EVANGELIST PARISH IN WESTBOROUGH.