school of theology and ministry
A graduate student of Christian theology undertakes rigorous study in the areas of scripture, systematic and historical theology, ethics, pastoral studies, and spirituality. While knowing about God is unquestionably valuable, the true theologian is one who knows God. And one cannot know God unless one enters into a living relationship with Triune God. Thus, spiritual formation becomes a central focus at the STM, a school that offers multiple ways of deepening in this all important friendship with the One who calls each one by name to friendship with God and to mission for God’s people. The following resources are available to support this journey of spiritual growth.
St. Ignatius of Loyola was a great friend of God. He learned God’s ways by paying attention to the movements of God’s Spirit within him that gradually attuned him to decisions, big and small, that would lead to God and God’s ways. He also learned that the accompaniment of a wise and learned companion was a tremendous help in growing to know and love God. Thus, the tradition of spiritual direction was central to him.
STM greatly values this tradition and hopes that all students will avail themselves of spiritual direction during the course of their time of study. To that end, STM offers several supports to make this possible. At the beginning of each fall semester, all interested students are invited to the “Meet Your Directors Night.” Many of the trained women and men who are available to meet with students for spiritual directors gather that evening so that students can meet them and learn a bit about their backgrounds and approaches to spiritual direction. In addition to meeting directors, an introduction to spiritual direction is offered, e.g. content, frequency, length of meeting, etc. A full list of spiritual directors is distributed that evening. In addition, the associate director of spiritual formation is available to help students identify one or two spiritual directors who seem like a good match for the student.
STM also offers financial support of up to $100 during the course of study. This makes it possible for students to get started for 4 meetings after which they can negotiate with the director.
We often hear the phrase, “we cannot give what we do not have.” How true this is as we become educated and trained to accompany others who hope and struggle and who long to discover and deepen values that will ground them in the fast paced life of this 21st century. The need to slow the pace and enter into silence and prayer is an essential for the minister of today.
In order to encourage and enable time for retreat, STM compiles a list of retreat resources in the Boston vicinity. In addition it offers up to $200 once during a student’s time at STM to defray the cost of a longer retreat of at least 4 days.
Several retreats are offered during the year at STM. The New Students Retreat is held within the first two weeks of the fall semester so that the women and men just starting can ground their relationships, their studies, and their discernment about their call to serve in a prayerful, God-centered context. The All Students Retreat is a student initiated and student led retreat open to all at the STM. Planned each fall semester, it is a chance to go off campus for input, time for quiet prayer, small group sharing, sharing a meal, and celebrating the Eucharist. It is wonderfully rejuvenating. The Life Directions Retreat occurs at the beginning of the spring semester. In addition to reflecting on the art and skill of discernment, it affords an opportunity to weigh two options that a student may be exploring in the context of discernment. The Student Leaders Retreat is led by student leaders so that their work for the school is value based and reflective of the needs of the students. Other groups on campus occasionally initiate other kinds of retreat since student initiative is highly prized.
Small Faith Sharing Groups
In the beginning of the fall semester, trained student leaders will invite interested students to participate in faith sharing groups. These will be shaped by those participating in them and will hopefully continue throughout the course of their studies.
At times, students may seek the help of a professional counselor who can assist them in navigating a particularly challenging time. STM offers the names of trained counselors as well as encouraging students to use the resources that the BC Counseling Center offers.
"Conversations That Matter"
In a world that is highly polarized, the need for future leaders in ministry to learn respectful and engaged conversation is crucial as each one anticipates work with diverse groups in parishes, classrooms, hospitals, not for profit arenas, etc.. Therefore, each semester, all are invited to participate in a two-hour conversation about a topic that is on people’s minds and hearts. Examples of topics are wide ranging: racism; climate change and care for the earth; the role of women in the Church; Church teaching, personal experience and pastoral presence in the LGBTQ context; elections 2016, etc.
Panels of 4 representing very diverse positions on a topic share value-based perspectives on the issue in a fish bowl format of conversation. Following the panel, a speaker offers further insight into the topic so as to deepen and broaden the context. Finally, all gathered have the opportunity to share perspectives in small groups and in the group at large. These conversations are challenging, enriching, and filled with energy as together we pursue new insights and responses to topics that matter.
Opportunities to Serve
Many students who have been involved in ministry prior to studying at STM find they miss the hands-on interaction with people in the work world. Involvement with the real needs of real people also allows students to stay in touch with why they decided to study in the first place. In light of this, STM hosts opportunities for student involvement through the year.