University of St. Mary of the Lake creates school for leadership, evangelization

By Michelle Martin
Wednesday, April 5, 2023

The entrance gate to the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary. (USML photo)

The University of St. Mary of the Lake will unite four of its institutes in the new School of Parish Leadership and Evangelization starting July 1, in a move leaders say will allow the university to offer more support and resources to the Archdiocese of Chicago and its parishes.

The new school will include the Institute of Diaconal Studies, Instituto de Liderazgo Pastoral, the Liturgical Institute and the Institute of Pastoral Leadership.

The programs, including the degrees and certificates offered by the institute, will continue.

Mundelein Seminary, which educates and forms men for priesthood, will not be affected by the restructuring.

The School of Parish Leadership and Evangelization will be led by Theodore Whapham, former dean of the School of Ministry at the University of Dallas.

“This new school will provide fresh opportunities for the education and spiritual development of the laity, building their capacity to contribute their gifts and talents and experiences as disciples for the benefit of the entire church as envisioned by the Second Vatican Council,” Cardinal Cupich said in a statement.

University leaders also expect that new structure will allow programs aimed at lay and diaconate leadership to flourish.

“The School of Parish Leadership and Evangelization allows us to situate USML’s rich history of preparing men and women for lay and diaconate ministry within a new vision for fostering personal encounters with Jesus Christ,” said Father John Kartje, rector and president of the university. “Because the identity and mission of our parishes are constantly evolving, we recognize the critical importance of forming leaders in the church who are faithful to the timeless truths of Christianity, but also flexible enough to adapt to the spiritual longings and needs of present and future generations.”

USML Provost Brian Schmisek said plans call for the school to offer everything from studies leading to a doctorate in ministry to short courses that are not oriented to a degree. Classes will be offered online, in person and in a hybrid format, and they will be held both at Mundelein and off-site.

“We want to be in every vicariate in the archdiocese,” Schmisek said.

The school will offer courses in areas including catechetics, liturgy, Scripture, church history, and theology. It will have a focus on forming parish leaders to catechize and evangelize amid the challenges facing the church today.

“This reorganization positions the school to meet the needs of the Archdiocese of Chicago while, as its name suggests, having a greater impact on the church in the United States, thus becoming a national center for parish leadership and evangelization,” said Schmisek, who is also vice president for development at USML.

Whapham, who started as dean April 3, said he intends to work to get to know the archdiocese and its parishes to learn how the University of St. Mary of the Lake can best serve them.

“My career has been built around building relationships with local churches at the diocesan and parish level,” he said. “My first step will be to get out of my office and meet people. The University of St. Mary of the Lake is the arch university and seminary, and these programs have a responsibility and duty of meeting the changing needs of the Archdiocese of Chicago.”


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