Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Some of the History of "Spirituality for the Vineyard"

It was a dark and stormy night....

OK, "Peanuts" references may not work nowadays.  But in truth, the theology professors--which at the time was me (Susan Windley-Daoust), Eileen Daily, Sr. Judy Schaefer, Greg Sobolewki, Ken Stenstrup, Laurie Ziliak, and Fr. Andrew Beerman--were just sitting around talking, noting that the majors seemed to be craving for more spiritual formation.  Intelletcual formation occurs in the classroom.  But if you are working for the Church, and trying to discern a vocation to the priesthood, religious life, or lay ministry, you also need spiritual formation.  We had (and have) an active Campus Ministry, but these students wanted more.  Students were asking for spiritual direction.  Students would talk about discernment in the offices or with each other.  Students would enjoy service work but wonder aloud how it all fits together.  And always students wanted to explore more possibilities for ministry than they necessarily had when they entered college.  It occurred to us: if our seminarians on campus had a strong formational component, shouldn't laypeople who work for the Church have similar opportunities to discern, grow, and learn to express what it means to have a vocation?  Don't we all need this?

At the same time, two documents became more and more important: the USCCB's document on lay ministry, "Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord," and The National Standards on Lay and Ecclesial Ministry.  Both documents focus on lay ministry as a calling in itself, and one that requires its own attention to intellectual, pastoral, spiritual, and human formation.  It doesn't look like the priesthood or religious life per se, but it looks like discipleship.  Lay people are called to be leaven in the world, to sanctify the secular order with their lives.  How could we help students be aware of that, and take on the responsibilities embedded in their calling to discipleship?

And yet again, at the same time, the idea of concept mapping as a way to organize thoughts, experiences, and consequences around a common issue was presented to us, and Prof. Laurie Ziliak realized in a "eureka moment": this is how we put the formational elements together on a visual chart.  Anyone could fill this in and assess how they are doing in terms of attention to formation--and anyone could show it to someone else and demonstrate his or her work in this area. 

After two grants and proposals, surveys, discussion, debate over a preposition, and a pizza party, we introduced: Spirituality for the Vineyard!

What we have created is meant to be a help to students (both help in encouraging discernment and formation now, and, after graduation, help in looking for ministry work), a co-curricular set of activities that supplements your intellectual formation, and an opportunity for dwelling more deeply on what is God's plan for your life. 

So what is it, exactly?  Probably a lot of things you already do...but perhaps some things you do not.  Let's start unfolding the program tomorrow.