Loyola program aims to awaken discipleship 

Paula Silliman, a graduate student in the LIMEX program, completed her reading assignment June 20 in her office at St. Francis Xavier Church in Mount Washington, Ky. (Record Photo by Olivia Castlen)

The Archdiocese of Louisville is accepting new students in the Loyola Institute for Ministry Extension Program (LIMEX) at Loyola University New Orleans. 

The extension program enables laypeople to earn a master’s degree or certificate in pastoral studies or religious education. 

“People really get into it and seem to love it,” said Art Turner in a recent interview. He noted that one question is at the center of each class: “How does this apply to your ministry?”

Turner serves as director of faith formation for the archdiocese and is the facilitator and liaison of the LIMEX program.

The partnership between LIMEX and the archdiocese began in 2005, when the archdiocese noticed that individuals involved in ministry desired further education yet were unable to manage traveling for a traditional master’s program while working.

“They needed more, they wanted more, but there wasn’t a way of doing it,” said Turner. 

The program requires the completion of 12 classes, with subjects such as “Introduction to Practical Theology” and “Jewish Roots (Old Testament).” 

The cohort attends the first six classes in person, meeting weekly for a three-hour class. The in-person class’ structure is built upon roundtable discussion of lived ministerial experience and theological reflection, rather than lectures. It also involves rigorous reading and thorough preparation each week, Turner said. 

Paula Silliman, a graduate student in the LIMEX program, discussed a project she’s working on June 20 in her office at St. Francis Xavier Church in Mount Washington, Ky. (Record Photo by Olivia Castlen)

The cohort takes the latter six classes online, as they differ depending on an individual’s chosen focus area. 

The coursework is designed for people in ministry and those seeking to get involved in ministry. Past students have most commonly come from careers in secondary education, diocesan ministry and parish ministry. However, the program is for “anyone who has a natural curiosity and wants to learn,” as long as they have “some sense of ministry,” said Turner.

He added that busy mothers have been some of the most diligent students. 

“There was not one busy mom (who participated in the program) that did not do well.” 

For mothers whose ministry is their family, he said, “How are you nurturing the domestic church in your household?”

Paula Silliman, pastoral associate at St. Francis Xavier Church in Mt. Washington, Ky., earned a certificate in 2022 and will graduate with a master’s degree in 2025. Her first career was education, but after years at home raising her children, she became more active in her parish and felt drawn to pastoral ministry. 

As a convert without a theological degree, Silliman said she “felt like she needed to catch up.” The LIMEX program gave her the opportunity. 

Silliman, who serves her parish in many ways, decided to pursue the master’s degree program in religious education with a focus in youth and young adults.

The online portion of the program has allowed her to feel greater solidarity with parishes across the nation, she said. They share similar challenges and joys, she said, adding, the program has allowed her to “listen to people and hear what is going on in their parishes.”

Paula Silliman, pastoral associate at St. Francis Xavier Church in Mount Washington, Ky., is a graduate student in Loyola’s extension program. (Record Photo by Olivia Castlen)

“I hope this program makes me a resource,” Silliman said. “We’re all here for the same mission.”

For those who entered the program from a career in ministry, Turner said, “It tends to be a program that reinforces a calling.” 

Individuals from secular careers who have participated in the program, “jumped ship from their jobs and entered into ministry,” said Turner.

Turner credits the program with awakening of discipleship and said some alumni have called others into ministry.

“It reinforced what they were already doing. It gave them the tools to do what they were doing, but better,” he said.

Since 2005, approximately 50 individuals from the Archdiocese of Louisville have completed the program, with the latest cohort completing their requirements for the certificate in theology and ministry in December of 2022. Several individuals in that cohort went on to pursue graduate degrees. 

Turner said he anticipates eight to 10 individuals participating in the program when it convenes this fall. Scholarships and discounted rates are available for those who need assistance covering tuition. For more information, email artturner@archlou.org or visit cnh.loyno.edu/lim/study-options.

Olivia Castlen
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Olivia Castlen
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