The university is now one of 17 institutions in the country that has been given funds to run the Pastoral Leadership in a Cultural Context at Marquette project.
The university received a grant totaling half a million dollars from Lilly Endowment, Inc., an Indianapolis-based private foundation committed to the causes of community development, education and religion.
Eleven pastors were chosen to participate in the project, which is designed to be a cohort based, two-year continuing formation program.
Of the 11, there are three women and eight males from various religious traditions ranging in age from 31 to 45. Typically, there are 12 people per cohort.
“It is a diverse group comprising of pastors from the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian and United Methodist traditions,” said Abraham Fisher, the program’s assistant director. “We have eight Anglo and three Latino pastors. So far, we have been amazed at how quickly and deeply they have bonded and developed into a cohesive group.”
The project is designed for “Christian early career pastors and congregational ministers prepared in seminary or pastoral programs,” according to the Lilly Endowment’s call for applications.
Marquette’s history with the Lilly Endowment goes back to 2002 when the it funded university for a vocation grant focusing on theological exploration of vocation.
“It is wise to recognize that these people are at very vulnerable points in their pastoral careers,”director of Manresa for faculty Susan Mountin said while discussing the benefits of the program. “They recognize that seminary training perhaps had limitations, sometimes not necessarily preparing them for issues their congregations face and issues facing larger communities.”
Mountin said the group recently finished an urban excursion to Walnut Way, a Milwaukee nonprofit neighborhood organization, Guest House, a publicly funded homeless shelter, and Project Return, a faith based ministry that provides support for people transitioning out of prison.
The excursion ended with a talk from Commissioner Rocky Marcoux concerning development in the city.
We wanted people to have hands on knowledge of what’s going on,” Mountin said. “Shouldn’t churches be on the cutting edge of addressing these social issues.”
Topics to be covered in future meetings include dealing with divorce and separation, mediation, restorative justice, immigration, education, health care and the environment.
Mountin described the meetings as a place to build a network of support for each other and a place to share ideas and resources.
This program’s cohort will meet at least four times a year for two years. Afterward, Mountin said they will be taking on another cohort for the same program.
Fisher said the program aims to provide spiritual development in Ignatian spirituality, develop a network of relationships, enhance understanding of cultural issues and assist in the development of leadership skills.
“Because of their position as pastoral leaders, they can be a bridge between an energized congregation and other persons of influence in business and local government,” Fisher said. “There is great potential here for sustained, significant social change.”