JANESVILLE -- Commencement ceremonies are often bittersweet events and this was no exception.
Relief and the joy of accomplishment in attaining a goal is tempered sometimes with the possibility of loss of friendships among the students and with the faculty over three years, who met with them monthly, coming from Florida or other parts of the country.
Master’s of Theological Studies Degrees were conferred June 7 at St. John Vianney Church in Janesville upon 11 graduates of the Institute for Pastoral Theology (IPT) program of Ave Maria University of Ave Maria, Fla. The program was offered with the support of Bishop Robert C. Morlino and the Diocese of Madison.
What is the Institute
for Pastoral Theology?
Ave Maria University’s Institute for Pastoral Theology (IPT) offers a variety of programs for non-traditional students at various sites around the country, with approximately five or six in operation at any given time.
“Non-traditional students” this year, for instance, refers to the 11 candidates from various communities in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, or Minnesota who traveled to the “Janesville Campus” (St. John Vianney School) one weekend per month for 18 hours of intensive classroom work and testing.
In the intervening weeks the students did independent work: considerable assigned research and writing on a variety of topics. The monthly meetings continued for three years between August and May, leading to the students’ Master’s Degrees. The Baccalaureate Mass and commencement were held June 7 in Janesville.
Plans are being made now for the fall term of another three-year program similar to the one just completed at the St. John Vianney Campus. Although registration has recently closed, interested parties are nevertheless encouraged to call the Institute for Pastoral Theology at Ave Maria University on their toll-free number 1-866-866-1100. There are plans to have these classes open for audit (sit-in and listening) as well as for students.
For a brochure giving specifics on cost and course content, visit the Web site at www.ipt.avemaria.edu Their email is:
The program is an intensive one and sometimes arduous, leading to close bonds being formed. Additional friendships were formed with local or nearby city parishioners who opened their homes to them for their periodic stays on Fridays through Sunday.
Also, Sisters of Charity Mother Marie Julie Saegaert of St. Elizabeth Nursing Home in Janesville and her staff hosted three students on a regular basis and sometimes more when the need arose. Mother Marie Julie herself participated in the academic program for a few months, until her usual duties made it impossible for her to continue.
Mass and commencement
Principal celebrant and homilist for the Baccalaureate Mass June 7 was Msgr. Daniel Ganshert, vicar general of the Diocese of Madison. Fr. Randy Timmerman, pastor of St. John Vianney Parish, concelebrated.
The day being in celebration of the solemnity of the Holy Trinity, Monsignor Ganshert acknowledged the considerable and varied efforts of priests and other scholars to teach in that area, and, after offering his interpretation and living examples of the Trinity as guidance, he concluded that it is more important to concentrate on “living it” rather than trying to “understand” what is often described as a mystery.
Faculty member Lawrence Feingold, who has a licentiate in sacred theology and doctorate in sacred theology, addressed the students, their invited parents and friends, and his fellow faculty members. The theme of his address was the vision of God in Christ’s human soul, which he feels serves as a good illustration of how Catholic doctrine aids the spiritual life, which in turn motivates pastoral or ecclesial life.
But in introducing that topic, Feingold briefly outlined the guiding philosophy of the IPT and how it differs from similar institutions in its teachings. He said:
“It is our conviction at IPT that deeper knowledge of Catholic doctrine, growth in holiness and the life of prayer, and pastoral activity are inseparably united. We seek to grow in our knowledge of the saving truths revealed by God through Christ and his Church so as to love God more faithfully, and to lead others to that same truth and love, thereby helping to build up the Church in accordance with our ecclesial mission. Knowledge of the truth should lead to a deeper love of God, which should be the motor for a more ardent ecclesial or pastoral service and a deeper communion with the Mystical body.”
Feingold continued, “As we know, this fundamental conviction of the IPT concerning the inseparable connection between orthodox Catholic doctrine, holiness, and pastoral service is not necessarily the norm in other programs in Pastoral Theology. All too often programs in ‘Pastoral Theology’ in recent decades have been based on the mistaken idea that deep knowledge of orthodox doctrine is not essential for pastoral action, as if we could build up the Church without penetrating more deeply into her mind and heart. Worse yet, such programs sometimes present pastoral concern as a justification for theological dissent, as if we could serve the Church by acting against her mind and heart as expressed in her authentic Magisterium.”
Sharing the experience
The graduating class selected one of their own to express their thoughts on that day, Ingrid Listiati Tay, who graduated Summa Cum Laude along with her husband, Stefanus Wijoyo Tay, Magna Cum Laude.
This Indonesian couple moved to northern Wisconsin three years ago to attend the course and gain their degrees. They did so on the recommendation of relatives in Schofield who previously attended the course and with whom they have lived for the past three years.
Ingrid Listiati Tay expressed the scholars’ gratitude by name, for those who helped them over the past three years, including her fellow students Jacque Childs and Dennis Hansch, who faithfully audited the course for three years and contributed to their enjoyment; the faculty; those who lodged them; the principal and staff at St. John Vianney School as well as their fellow-students there; and Father Timmerman. Gratitude was also expressed to Bishop Morlino and the Diocese of Madison for their support.
A common sentiment among the graduates in informal interviews was how they will be using their new knowledge to serve the Church. A portion of Ingrid’s address told one of the ways they already have used it to support their work.
Serving others in Indonesia
On the subject of serving Catholics and others in Indonesia, Tay said:
“As some of you may know, Indonesia is the biggest Muslim country in the world, with the population of around 240 million, with only three percent Catholics. In our country, it is relatively difficult to get a reliable source on the Catholic Faith. We do not have a good Catholic radio or television channel like EWTN here. Thus, Catholics are hungry to know more about the faith and yet there are few means to fulfill their need. We prayed to God, and asked Him what we could do about it, and then the answer came in a very unexpected way.
“It was last year in May, after praying together, Tay said to me, ‘Let’s make an Indonesian Catholic Web site,’” Tay said. “I was surprised and I asked him, ‘Do you know how?’ And he answered, ‘No, I don’t, but I can learn.’ Then I answered, ‘That means we need to pray more “Hail Marys!”’”
Sure enough, it was through Mother Mary’s intercession that the idea was realized. Although it sounded almost like a joke at first, as neither knew anything about creating a Web site, “the Lord sent His help we needed to carry out such task,” Tay said. “The Holy Spirit surely had been guiding Tay as he learned how to make a Web site through the internet. Now, the Web site (www.katolis
itas.org) is growing, with around 700 to 1,000 unique visitors a day from Indonesian Catholics from all over the world.
“We have posted various articles about the topics we have learned in the IPT. We allow them to send faith questions and we try to answer them all. The questions come from various readers — Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, and atheists; most of them are seriously and sincerely seeking the Truth,” Tay said. “Honestly, we have to acknowledge that without the IPT, we would never have been able to create this Web site, for we would not have been able to answer questions that oftentimes are very challenging.
“Who would have thought that through the IPT, God’s message could reach thousands or perhaps millions of souls all over the world?” she said. “This proves the unity and universality of the Church. How marvelous God’s plan is, it is indeed beyond our ways and understanding. How great God’s wisdom is, as He allows us to participate in His plan in our own little way!”
Tay had the following observations on President Barak Obama’s recent commencement address at the University of Notre Dame:
“An example is how we respond to the issue of abortion in this country, as is lately being made more evident through the speech of President Obama at the Catholic University of Notre Dame,” Tay said.
“I am an Indonesian, and therefore I have no concern about politics here, for I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat,” she said. “Yet, what I can see here is so clear, for the issue is a matter of life and death, Truth and sin. There is no way we can compromise on this matter; otherwise it means violating God’s command to love the weakest of the weak, or the least of our brothers (cf. Mat 25:40), that is, the innocent child of God in the womb.
“Thus, President Obama is right to mention that the views of the two camps, namely, the pro-life and the so called pro-choice, are irreconcilable,” she said. “This is true, for life and death are contradictory. In the Book of Deuteronomy, we learn that God himself offers to mankind the choice between life and death, blessing and curse. If we truly love our neighbors, we should point out to them life and blessings instead of death and curse. Or, we cannot let them choose death and curse while we keep silence about them.
“Thus, may we be ready to stand up for the Truth,” Tay said. “If ever this subject is brought up in our daily conversation with friends or relatives, may we ask the Holy Spirit to give us courage to speak up for the truth with respect.”
Different paths, same goal
In his opening remarks, Feingold spoke of the program the students just completed as leading to knowledge of the Truth and a greater love of God, which should be the motor for greater service to the Church.
That was abundantly clear during conversations with some of the graduates during the social following graduation. In answer to an open-ended question of “how would they would utilize their new knowledge?”, they revealed a common thread of them becoming better enabled to provide increased service to the Church and others as well as increasing their own love for the Church.
Some were already involved with parishes as volunteers or employed as directors of religious education, Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) instructors, heads of liturgy and faith formation, and other functions, and were seeking to find ways to take on added responsibilities or at least do their present duties better.
At least three were “changing careers”: a 30-year experienced retired electrical engineer aspiring to teach at a Catholic school; a 40-year experienced nurse with a minor in religion and later a master’s degree who undertook the current program so she “could answer religious questions from students with the same competence she could in the nursing field”; and a 30-year corporate lawyer who left her profession “almost cold turkey” after enrolling in the course and responding to the call of a religious career.
Another graduate is a long-term volunteer at St. Patrick Parish in Madison, whose goal is “to grow in spirituality and faith” so he can “love the Church more and share it with others”.