Saint Mary Seminary receives Lilly Endowment Grant

January 14, 2022

Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology in Wickliffe received a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to improve the evaluation and training of priests for the Diocese of Cleveland.

The grant, funded through Lilly Endowment’s Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative, is a three-phase initiative designed to help theological schools across the United States and Canada as they prioritize and respond to the most pressing challenges they face as they prepare pastoral leaders for Christian congregations both now and in the future.

For more than 170 years, Saint Mary Seminary has served the Diocese of Cleveland as place of formation for men studying for the ordained Catholic priesthood, and for women and men who are pursuing advanced theological degrees in lay pastoral ministry and the permanent diaconate.

The seminary has experienced significant renewal over the last decade, but more is needed to better evaluate and form clergy and lay leadership. Saint Mary Seminary is committed to producing healthy and holy ministers, and essential to this goal is the evaluative feedback from the people in the community.

“For the past 40 years, there has been a fruitful collaboration between the seminary and our local parishes,” said Father Mark Latcovich, president-rector of Saint Mary Seminary. “This new process will allow a renewed effort to listen to the people in the pews about the readiness of candidates for ordained ministry and provide a more comprehensive profile of our seminarians.”

In January 2022, the seminary will begin a five-year strategic process for equipping parishes with resources, tools and training so that the candidates in their field education assignments are better prepared to serve the Church as holy shepherds and leaders. Parishes participating in this process will be enriched in their leadership as they reflect upon Christ’s mandate to “Go and make disciples.”

Saint Mary Seminary is one of 84 theological schools that are receiving a total of more than $82 million in grants through the second phase of the Pathways initiative. Together, the schools represent evangelical, mainline Protestant, nondenominational, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic and Black church and historic peace church traditions, such as Church of the Brethren, Mennonite and Quakers. Many schools also serve students and pastors from Black, Latino, Korean American, Chinese American and recent immigrant Christian communities.

“Theological schools have long played a pivotal role in preparing pastoral leaders for churches,” said Christopher L. Coble, the endowment’s vice president for religion. “Today, these schools find themselves in a period of rapid and profound change. Through the Pathways Initiative, theological schools will take deliberate steps to address the challenges they have identified in ways that make the most sense to them. We believe that their efforts are critical to ensuring that Christian congregations continue to have a steady stream of pastoral leaders who are well-prepared to lead the churches of tomorrow.”

Vibrant, healthy parishes are Christ-centered and filled with a deep sense of prayerful and missionary purpose. They are deeply nourishing, profoundly welcoming, and abundant with the transcendent Spirit that allows them to reach far beyond themselves. Their spirituality, ministry, and social outreach are rooted in a Sunday worship that extends out into the surrounding community and beyond. Typically, at the hub of a healthy parish is a pastoral leader working collaboratively and co-responsibly with a leadership team that honors and supports the baptismal call of all parishioners. Vibrant healthy parishes depend on vibrant healthy leadership.

Lilly Endowment launched the Pathways initiative in January 2021 because of its longstanding interest in supporting efforts to enhance and sustain the vitality of Christian congregations by strengthening the leadership capacities of pastors and congregational lay leaders.