$1M Lilly Endowment grant to support urban pastors

Marquette University recently received a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to provide support to Christian pastors in university ministry, according to a Oct. 18 university news release.

The Lilly Endowment is a privately based Indianapolis foundation that mostly funds projects in the areas of religion, education and community development, according to its website.

This grant is part of one of Lilly Endowment’s programs called Thriving in Ministry, which is a five-year grant aimed at helping pastors form connections with other clergy in order to encourage mentorship within the church, according to the  release. 

The university received the largest grant of its kind in Wisconsin and stands as one of 78 organizations taking part in the Thriving in Ministry program.

The $1 million given to Marquette will go specifically to a new program called Companions of Ministry, which Susan Mountain,  the director of Pastoral Leadership in a Cultural Context, a Marquette program also funded through the Lilly Endowment, said she will oversee.

The program plans to develop affinity groups of urban pastors, ordained women, international pastors and pastors serving Hispanic congregations. These groups will meet with a trained pastor regularly and the conversations will begin and end with a two-day retreat, according to the release.

“I organized a group of pastors and leaders from a variety of Christian religious denominations to brainstorm ideas for this grant proposal,” Mountin said. “This project is an important outreach of Marquette into supporting faith communities in the Milwaukee area through strengthening clergy life and ultimately supporting people of faith.”

Peg Flahive, director of human concerns at the Church of the Gesu, will take a leadership role on the project as well.

Flahive said she was excited to learn Marquette received this competitive grant.

“I view our Companions in Ministry as an extension of Marquette’s community engagement initiatives, and one that will help our local pastors grow in their ministry,” Flahive said.

Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion, said in the release that leading a congregation can often be demanding in today’s world.

“These promising programs, including Companions in Ministry, will help pastors develop these kinds of relationships, especially when they are in the midst of significant professional transitions,” Coble said in the release.

In the release, Marquette University President Michael Lovell said today’s pastors are dealing with complex issues.

“Through this generous Thriving in Ministry grant from the Lilly Endowment, we hope to put the right support systems in place to help pastors and their congregations flourish,” Lovell said.

Mountin said over $70 million in grants have been given through the Thriving in Ministry program to date.