BEYOND THE SHADOW OF THE GOLDEN DOME
One of the wonderful blessings of my ministry here in the diocese has come from the presence of two fine programs which originate at Notre Dame University in South Bend. The oldest in the diocese which arrived in my third year here is called “ACE” which stands for Alliance for Catholic Education. Begun about twenty years ago by Holy Cross Father Timothy Scully, graduates from ND and many other colleges and universities compete for eighty positions in a two year program leading to a Masters degree in Education. After a full summer of courses and practica in teaching, the eighty students are sent forth, missioned if you will, to Catholic schools throughout the country. There they teach for two years, mostly in inner city schools. They live in community (ours live in a former convent in Pinellas Park), praying together, cooking for one another, recreating and continuing their course work over the internet with the “mother ship” in South Bend.
They are paid something in the neighborhood of one thousand dollars a month for ten months, must reimburse the diocese or school for room costs, pay for their own food, gas, etc. At the end of the first year they return to campus for their second summer of course work. At the end of two years, they graduate with an M.Ed. degree. Some remain where they were teaching, some move on to teaching in other areas, often to be nearer to a “significant other” and others begin in yet another profession. Here in this diocese, these ACE teachers have or are teaching at St. Petersburg Catholic, St. Joseph’s in West Tampa, Transfiguration school (now closed) and Sacred Heart in Pinellas Park. They are a great group of young people and many remain close to me and to their schools long after they have finished their work.
This year a new group from Notre Dame has arrived called “ECHO” and this program while very similar in structure to the ACE program focuses on religious education and youth ministry. We have three young people (pictured above) working at St. Paul’s in St. Petersburg, the Cathedral of St. Jude, and Blessed Trinity parish, south St. Petersburg. They live in a residence which has been lent to them by Monsignor Anton Dechering of Blessed Trinity. Their pastors welcome their presence and the fruits of their labors are beginning to be seen and acknowledged even after only four months. None of the ECHO ministers are graduates of Notre Dame but they are fully matriculated graduate students. Notre Dame calls this program the Echo Faith Formation Leadership Program.
Eight young women and men who have given the first two of their post-undergraduate years to the ministry of the Church. You would be impressed if you could come to know them as I know them. Generous, hard-working, stressed-out at times with their own school work and the expectations of their present employers here, they work hard, pray well, and grow in their love of ministry and the Church. I am happy to share their story in the briefest detail with you tonight. They were my guests this evening for an Advent dinner and as always, they shame me with the zeal and courage.
Far from the shadow of the golden dome, the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes and Sacred Heart Basilica (notice this year I am not mentioning the other campus shrine which is 100 yards long!), the long reach of a wonderful Catholic university is making its presence felt in this local Church.