St. Catherine receives grant from Lilly Endowment

Deborah Organ, professional faculty member of the Theology Department, with Ms. Munger

St. Catherine University has received a $600,000 grant to establish Encuentro: St. Catherine University Theology Institute. Project directors for this award are Christine Luna Munger, director of the Spiritual Direction certificate program, and Deb Organ, coordinator of Ministry Certificates in the Theology Department of the School of Humanities, Arts and Sciences. This grant is part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative, which seeks to encourage young people to explore theological traditions, ask questions about the moral dimensions of contemporary issues and examine how their faith calls them to lives of service.

Reflecting the changing demographics of the Catholic Church, whose member in the U.S. is expected to become 60 percent Latino by the year 2050, Encuentro: St. Catherine University Theology Institute will encourage young women from diverse backgrounds to engage in intercultural dialogue while drawing from the wisdom of the Roman Catholic theological and spiritual traditions. In addition, it will strive to empower the young women, as leaders, toward personal transformation and commitment to the common good.

Encuentro draws upon the Spanish word for encounter, and reflects complex layers of self-identity and relationship to others. The institute will engage youth and mentor teams from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds through theological education and spiritual formation opportunities.

During the four-year grant period, the project will educate and enliven a total of 140 rising high school sophomore and junior young women, along with up to 10 mentors from local schools and parishes, all of whom will be equipped to serve as theologically formed leaders in their communities.

The program seeks to help participants:

• Examine diverse charisms in the Catholic intellectual and spiritual traditions.
• Explore contemplative and communal spiritual practices in the Christian tradition.
• Become equipped with tools and skills for vocational discernment and decision-making.
• Engage in intercultural dialogue while addressing complex and urgent ethical dilemmas.

The first high school theology institute for young women will be held on the St. Catherine campus in July 2016, and will include theological coursework, spiritual practices, and local service projects. For more information, contact Christina Luna Munger or Deb Organ.

More about the Initiative

St. Catherine University is one of 82 schools participating in the Lilly Endowment initiative. The schools are located in 29 states and the District of Columbia. Although some schools are independent, many reflect the religious heritage of their founding traditions. These traditions include Baptist, Brethren, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Reformed churches, as well as Roman Catholic, non-denominational, Pentecostal and historic African-American Christian communities.

“These colleges and universities are well-positioned to reach out to high school students in this way,” said Dr. Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Endowment. “They have outstanding faculty in theology and religion who know how to help young people explore the wisdom of religious traditions and apply these insights to contemporary challenges.”

The Endowment is giving $44.5 million in grants to help a select group of private four-year colleges and universities around the nation to create the institutes. The grants are part of the Endowment’s commitment to identify and cultivate a cadre of theologically minded youth who will become leaders in church and society.

More about Lilly Endowment Inc.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family - J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli - through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. The Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. Lilly Endowment’s religion grantmaking is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians. It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes.