Some 10 years ago the Lilly Endowment in Indianapolis announced an unusually significant grant initiative, with awards of up to $2,000,000, designed to strengthen the mission and identity of Christian higher education in the United States. A select group of colleges and universities were invited to apply for the grants, and the University of St. Thomas participated in the second round of the grant process. The Center for Catholic Studies coordinated both the initial planning, grant application and the eventual implementation and sustainability grants, totaling $2,550,000 over an eight-year period.
The grants had a very important impact on a wide variety of center and university programs, including new faculty development programs, faculty and student retreats, new curricular development, residential living options and vocational discernment initiatives. The grant focused on three distinct but connected notions of vocation: ordained ministry, lay ministry and apostolates, and a sense of the Christian vocation in the world and in the professions. St. Thomas’ programs focused on all three areas with distinct programs for each.
The Center for Catholic Studies used these funds to develop residential living programs in men’s and women’s houses and in Rome, and new Catholic men’s and women’s floors in residence halls. In addition, we created the new Leadership Intern Program and Latino Leadership Scholarship to promote reflection on the nature of the Christian vocation in contemporary culture. The St. Thomas program, titled “Beyond Career to Calling,” also led to the development of a new mentorship program in which students in professional fields have an opportunity to reflect with senior leaders intheir fields on the ways in which one might bring faith to bear on professional life.
In receiving the funds, the university committed to raising additional support for the project and to sustain the most important and successful of its programs. This led us to create the Habiger Institute for Catholic Leadership with six major programs focusing on leadership formation and vocational discernment.
Across the campus, a wide variety of departments and programs received funding to begin or to intensify programs related to the university’s Catholic mission and identity. One of the primary programs was the Aquinas Fellows Program, which identified leaders in each of the three vocational areas. These students in their junior and senior years were nominated by faculty and were eligible to receive funding of up to $10,000 per year to pursue their studies with this vocational emphasis. This was especially important for those students seeking to work in the Church, since student-loan debt often made it very difficult for them to consider relatively low-paying work upon graduation. In addition, the Lilly grant funded a weeklong seminar for new faculty members titled “The Vocation of the Catholic Intellectual.” The focus of the seminar was to introduce new faculty members to the comprehensive tradition of Catholic thought and culture.
We are very grateful to the Lilly Endowment for this extraordinary opportunity and are confident that the initial foundations that have been laid will offer promise well intothe future.
A few of the programs sponsored by the Eli Lilly Foundation grant, Beyond Career to Calling:
Faculty: Catholic Intellectual Tradition seminars The Work of John Paul II and the Vocation of the Professional Woman seminar Higher Calling of the Entrepreneur series Ireland Fund initiatives Church and the Biomedical Revolution seminars Faculty discussion group on the Vocation of the Christian Intellectual
Student: Aquinas Fellows Leadership Intern Program Latino Leadership Program Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture conferences Radical Encounters vocational retreats Myriam Companions
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