Aquinas Institute goes beyond simply being a gatekeeper for those seeking careers in ministry. Our faculty members want more than to gauge the suitability of candidates for ministry. We want to shape the men and women who study here. We want them to be healthy, whole, happy and productive ministers, and we have a process that makes it possible.
Students begin a formation process as soon as they enter Aquinas Institute through discussions about pryer and other personal faith issues.
In their second semester, ministry students undergo spiritual, psychological and behavioral assessments. They spend about five hours taking a battery of psychological and behavioral exams. They meet with a psychologist from the St. Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute to review test results and identify strengths and weaknesses.
Marian Love, director of the lay spiritual formation program, meets with students to assess their spiritual development. She requires them to write a “spiritual biography,” which is a personal assessment based upon questions he provides. The autobiographies are 10 typed pages – single spaced.
Ultimately the student, psychologist and Love come together to talk about the student’s test results and to establish a baseline of growth for ministry.
Students have at least four semesters of formation work. Students pursuing our most comprehensive degree commit to six semesters of formation.
As the semesters progress, Love and the student continue to meet to evaluate progress on the student’s goals and set new ones. In addition to those meetings, students gather in small groups every two weeks. During these gatherings a student leads a 20-minute prayer experience as a means of developing skill, fostering reflection and nurturing the community. The group spends time during these sessions talking about issues related to ministerial development or faith formation.
The lay formation process at Aquinas Institute has been so successful that it has become a model among graduate schools of theology throughout the United States. It is more comprehensive than almost any other formation program in the country and it surpasses the standards put forth by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Lay men and women are increasingly being called to roles of working alongside ordained ministers. Those roles demand a preparedness that goes beyond theology. Aquinas Institute is working hard to ensure that they possess it.