For the glory of God, and college credits

In August, four college graduates, a summer removed from their commencement ceremonies, came together at the former St. John Church rectory in Paulsboro to begin a two-year graduate program that includes living together in community and serving the needs of today’s Catholics.

Laura Berlage (22, from Indianapolis); Abigail Craycraft (22, Milford, Ohio); Pamela Tremblay (23, Granby, Mass.); and Amy Winkler (23, Memphis, Tenn.) are currently students in University of Notre Dame’s Echo, a two-year master’s degree program where participants learn all facets of lay ministry.

The program consists of online and in-classroom coursework, and “apprenticeships” at parishes across the country.

In its partnership with the Camden Diocese, Notre Dame’s Echo apprentices have spent the past 10 months at the old St. John rectory and served in parishes, working with mentors in religious education departments. They have shared their faith with confirmandi, first communicants and parishioners young and old through various parish ministries.

The four women will soon finish return to Notre Dame for summer courses. In August, a year after they first came to the Camden Diocese, they will come back and continue their work in parishes.

When not at their respective parishes or at their house, or studying together, the four have explored South Jersey and Philadelphia, going to one of the Theology on Tap programs sponsored by the diocese’s Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, and to the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. As well, they have gathered with another group of Echo apprentices in Delaware.

“To have people who share those core values, and have that sense of shared mission, is very grounding,” Winkler said, adding that the three other apprentices have “challenged me to grow.”

The Notre Dame Echo program is “the best way, the best method of formation, for anyone who desires to serve God’s people and his church,” believes Sister Kathleen Burton, director of the Faith and Family Life Formation Office for the Diocese of Camden.

Noting the apprentices’ “youth, enthusiasm, commitment, zeal and love for the Church,” Sister Kathleen added that it is “encouraging to watch them mature in ministry.”

Notre Dame’s Echo program has been partnering with dioceses across the country for eight years. More than 100 apprentices have participated in the program.

“Diocesan partners and parish mentors have so much experience and wisdom to share with our students and often express that their own ministry has been strengthened by the gifts and service our apprentices bring to their communities,” said Colleen Moore, director of the Echo program at Notre Dame.

“As a result of these partnerships, over 80 percent of graduates have gone on to serve in the church in a variety of ministries,” she said.

For more about Echo apprentices Laura Berlage, Abigail Craycraft, Pamela Tremblay and Amy Winkler, see story under Youth and Young Adult Ministry: “Notre Dame students serve in parishes for graduate credit”

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