Master's degree students ministering in diocese

Friday, Dec. 09, 2016
Master's degree students ministering in diocese + Enlarge
Eight Notre Dame University students are working in diocesan schools and parishes for the next two years; they are (from left) Katy Windels, Angie Hall, Paul Kuczynski, Catherine Coffey, Caleb Childers, Michelle Ahrens, Michele Gelaude and Noah Banks.

Salt Lake City — Eight Notre Dame University theology students are bringing enthusiasm and fresh perspectives to Diocese of Salt Lake City schools and parishes as they minister here for the next two years.
Through Notre Dame’s Echo Faith Formation Leadership Program, the students serve in the diocese during the school year, taking most of their coursework online and, during the summer, on campus. From 2014 to 2016, three Echo students taught in Utah Catholic schools. This year, the diocese has four Echo students teaching in the schools, and for the first time, four others working in parishes.
The four Echo students in the schools mainly teach theology courses. Caleb Childers teaches at Juan Diego CHS, Noah Banks at St. Joseph CHS and both Michele Gelaude and Paul Kuczynski at Judge Memorial CHS. In the parishes, Kathryn Windels works in Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Ogden, Catherine Coffey is stationed at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, and Angela Hall and Michelle Ahrens are at St. Catherine of Siena Newman Center in Salt Lake City.
The students at the parishes are very valuable for the parish they work in, said Fr. Joseph Delka, parochial vicar of Saint Joseph Catholic Church, where Windels has a variety of responsibilities. For example, she helps with religious education in the parish and with reestablishing their Young Adult Ministry program. 
“She’s very much on fire and willing to help out with a lot of things and we’ve taken her up on that,” Fr. Delka said.
The students who are assigned as teachers in the Catholic high schools are a most welcome addition as well, said Clay Jones, principal of St. Joseph Catholic High School. “The freshness and newness that they bring is awesome,” he said. “One of the best things about (the Echo program) is the fresh teacher outlooks.” 
But teaching isn’t the only thing these students do. Gelaude found that she and her fellow students can help improve campus in other ways as well. Aside from teaching two classes, Scriptures in Christ for freshmen and a peer ministry class for seniors, she serves as the campus minister. 
The Echo program is “meant for young people to educate and minister to the younger people,” she said. “It’s all based in care for the Church.”
That care for the Church is reflected in all the Echo students’ work, said Susan Northway, director of the diocesan religious education office and diocesan representative for the Echo program in Salt Lake City. “These are young adults who are discovering a call to ministry,” she said. “They’re not volunteers, they’re people who are seriously looking for a calling.”
The fact that she is not a volunteer is exactly why Coffey believes students like her can be of such great help to the Catholic community. “The ability to send young, enthusiastic students to do parish ministries is pretty rare,” she said. She added that usually the Catholic Church will accept a volunteer even if they have no training or experience, as long as they are willing to help. How much better, then, she pointed out, to have someone who is trained in theology and passionate to help the Church. While the students receive many benefits from the program, such as a place to live, a salary to live on and a promise of a master’s degree in theology, the diocese has a lot to gain from the students’ work as well, she said.
Ahrens agreed with her fellow parish worker, saying that “there’s a good balance between Church and student benefits” – the Catholic Church receives trained workers passionate for Christ, while the students gain exposure to what it’s like having a job in the real world, she said.
She felt that she has gained a lot from the program too. “I’m falling into a lot more confidence now,” she said.
Banks echoed his fellow students’ feelings, saying that he felt having theologically trained and fresh teachers is essential for the Catholic community. “You wouldn’t have a math teacher teaching calculus who had never studied math before,” he said. In the same way, someone who has aggressively studied Scripture and theology is integral in positions of teaching, he said.

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