In addition to graduate studies in theology and service to the Church at a parish or school, Echo apprentices and theology teachers engage in integrative human, communal, and spiritual formation.
Human & Communal Formation
Echo apprentices and theology teachers participate in several different kinds of community during the program—the M.A. in Theology community, the Echo program community, the diocesan and parish or school communities, and their assigned intentional faith community with other Echo participants. During summers at Notre Dame, apprentices and theology teachers benefit from living, praying, studying, and socializing with the M.A. in Theology student community, participating in Echo community events (e.g., orientation, community service, retreats), and meeting weekly for dinner and prayer with their specific intentional faith community. Once on-site in their arch/diocese, intentional faith communities live in diocesan-provided housing and continue to meet regularly for the following:
- designated weekly community nights that include a shared meal, prayer, and activity;
- communal prayer two to three times each week;
- regular house meetings to establish household responsibilities and discuss communal concerns.
Echo prepares apprentices and theology teachers for communal living and facilitates human development by providing:
- a comprehensive guide for community living and interactive orientation sessions;
- a series of human development workshops on topics such as communication, conflict management, healthy boundaries, family systems, emotional health, and relationships and sexuality;
- ongoing support from Echo staff who meet with apprentices and theology teachers throughout the summer, visit or schedule video conferences with Echo communities each fall and spring, and are available for consultation as needed; and
- an Echo Formation Assistant (EFA), who offers local support to apprentices and theology teachers through monthly individual and communal meetings and facilitated community retreats.
In order to lead others in faith formation, ministers must continually engage in their own spiritual formation. In Echo, apprentices and theology teachers make a serious commitment to deepening their faith in Christ, to developing their ability to express that faith, and to learning how to accompany others in their own spiritual lives.
Spiritual formation in Echo includes the development of an annual Formation Covenant that outlines an apprentice’s or theology teacher’s commitment to the following:
- cultivating consistent personal and communal prayer as well as developing knowledge of a variety of prayer styles and practices;
- monthly spiritual direction. Diocesan leaders provide a list of potential local spiritual directors to participants;
- regular participation in communal and liturgical life of placement parish (apprentices) or school/local parish (theology teachers);
- participation in diocesan and required program retreats designed to engage participants’ minds, bodies, and spirits in prayer, the sacraments, theological reflection, creative activities, and community building.