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School of Theology and Ministry

Douglas Leal, M.A. ’10

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For a year before arriving at the School of Theology and Ministry in fall 2008, Douglas Leal did something few lay Catholics ever do: he ran a parish that had no priest, in Los Angeles. He then came to Boston College to pursue a master’s in pastoral ministry, which he calls “the degree I should have had.” 

A former actor who worked as a management consultant during the 1990s, Leal brought his experiences as a lay minister to STM’s classrooms, where he met other students whose paths had taken unusual trajectories. “It wasn’t just theoretical conversation. It made for a richer discussion,” he recalled.

Leal went straight from STM to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, where he is coordinator of Adult Faith Formation and Young Adult Ministry. Recalling the lively interchange of theory and practice at the School, he said, “It gave me the theological foundation for the kind of ministry I’m involved in now. It allowed me to draw on theology, Scripture, and the tradition of the Church to support the work I do.”

Leal cites Professor Thomas Groome’s influential “Shared Christian Praxis” model of adult religious education as a signal influence. The approach involves drawing out the faith experiences of people who attend programs such as retreats, and bringing their wisdom directly to bear on Catholic faith, explained Leal, whose bachelor’s degree is in psychology from Loyola University of New Orleans.

Meeting regularly in small faith-sharing groups at STM, he said he discovered the importance of “spiritual community” for ministers themselves, who often don’t have anyone to minister to them.

“This grad school experience is not just about teaching you theology,” said Leal, who has returned to STM twice to lead workshops for lectors on applying acting techniques to scriptural proclamation. “It’s about forming you as a minister.”

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