March 2, 2018

Grants help lay parish and school leaders remain in ministry

Augusta McGonigal poses in a selfie with Drew Bishop, left, and Michael Aimone, both members of St. Patrick Parish in Terre Haute on Dec. 10, 2017, during a Christmas party for the youth ministry program for the five parishes in Terre Haute. McGonigal is the coordinator of youth ministry for the parishes. (Submitted photo)

Augusta McGonigal poses in a selfie with Drew Bishop, left, and Michael Aimone, both members of St. Patrick Parish in Terre Haute on Dec. 10, 2017, during a Christmas party for the youth ministry program for the five parishes in Terre Haute. McGonigal is the coordinator of youth ministry for the parishes. (Submitted photo)

By Sean Gallagher

Augusta McGonigal and Joe Sheehan are young adults who love their Catholic faith, and have dedicated themselves as lay people to sharing it with others in central and southern Indiana.

McGonigal is coordinator of youth ministry for the five parishes in Terre Haute: Sacred Heart, St. Benedict, St. Joseph University, St. Margaret Mary and St. Patrick.

Sheehan is a pastoral associate at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Indianapolis who oversees sacramental preparation through first Communion and helps organize liturgies. He also teaches religion to seventh and eighth graders in the parish’s school.

Both recognized the need for excellent formation for their ministry. Sheehan earned an undergraduate degree at the University of Notre Dame in northern Indiana. He later earned a master’s degree through the university’s Echo program, which trains its participants to be effective leaders in catechesis.

McGonigal earned an undergraduate degree at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio.

Like many young adults today, both McGonigal and Sheehan incurred a significant amount of educational debt in their college years.

“It was an expensive education,” McGonigal said. “But a solid Catholic education for me was important, especially if I was going to go into ministry in the Church.”

In her third year in Terre Haute, she finds joy in leading Catholic teens closer to Christ and the Church.

“To see the moment when the light bulb clicks on and they see how the Lord has been working in their lives is the best part of my job,” she said. “When it comes to working with high schoolers, you walk alongside them.”

Being saddled with educational debt can make staying in ministry difficult for well-qualified lay Catholics like Sheehan and McGonigal.

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis, with the assistance of Lilly Endowment, Inc., has created the Ministerial Excellence Fund to support lay people in ministry and others across central and southern Indiana.

Lilly Endowment, through the $1 million Empowering Pastoral Leaders for Excellence in Parish Leadership and Management grant it awarded the archdiocese in 2016, will match contributions to the fund up to $200,000 through 2018.

At the end of 2017, 16 grants of up to $5,000 each were awarded from the fund to qualifying lay parish and school leaders across central and southern Indiana, including McGonigal and Sheehan.

The grants can also help lay leaders with challenging medical expenses.

Sheehan is married and has a 3-year‑old daughter. He and his wife hope to provide a Catholic education for her, but find the prospect of that difficult because of his educational debt.

“That was the driving force behind why we applied [for a grant],” Sheehan said. “Our end goal that we’re hoping to achieve is continuing a Catholic education for our daughter.”

“The grant he was awarded helped him pay off completely one of his student loans, which makes saving for his daughter’s education more achievable.

He was pleased that the faithful of central and southern Indiana who have contributed to the fund appreciate lay leaders being formed well for their service to the Church.

“They saw the value of that and wanted to support us in our roles, being able to give back to the Church,” Sheehan said. “I thought it was great.”

McGonigal was “flabbergasted” at the generosity of the contributors to the fund.

“It really shows how the people of central and southern Indiana take faith seriously,” she said. “It really starts at home. And to know that our families are keeping the faith in the home and really want more is astounding.”

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson supports the fund because he recognizes the need for good formation for lay leaders in parishes and schools across central and southern Indiana.

“Effective leadership necessarily requires a firm foundation of formation and education,” he said. “Effective leaders are essential to the effectiveness and vitality of parish ministries and services, including our Catholic schools. “Effective leadership of both clergy and laity, rooted in sound spiritual and faith formation, is essential to evangelization.”

Matt Hayes currently oversees the Ministerial Excellence Fund in his role as project director of the Empowering Pastoral Leaders for Excellence in Parish Leadership and Management grant.

“This makes a difference for the Church,” he said. “It makes a difference for great pastoral leaders who are going to be able to continue in ministry with a little bit of their economic burden lessened because of this.”

Lay leaders in the archdiocese who qualify to apply for a grant from the fund will receive an e-mail later this year. Additional grants will be awarded from the fund by the end of 2018.

Hayes hopes that contributions to the fund will exceed the $200,000 which Lilly Endowment will match. This would allow the archdiocese to create an endowment for the fund, which would ensure that grants would be awarded into the future.

Such an endowment would be managed by the archdiocesan Catholic Community Foundation, which would also oversee the awarding of future grants.

“What we have here is a great vehicle,” Hayes said. “It will be in place for people, in small ways and large ways, to support lay ministers.”
 

(For more information about the Ministerial Excellence Fund and how to apply for a grant, contact the archdiocese’s Human Resources Office at 317-236-1594 or humanresources@archindy.org or by visiting www.archindy.org/hr/mef. For more information about how to contribute financially to the Ministerial Excellence Fund, call the archdiocese’s Office of Stewardship and Development at 317‑236-1415 or 1-800-382-9836, ext. 1415. Interested donors can also contact Jolinda Moore at jmoore@archindy.org or Ron Greulich at rgreulich@archindy.org.)

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