Diocese partners with Neumann University for undergraduate degree completion and graduate spiritual direction programs


Augmenting its rapidly growing Lay Ministry Formation Program, the Diocese of Camden has entered into a partnership agreement with Neumann University to offer parishioners throughout the diocese the opportunity to participate in undergraduate and graduate degree programs, including a graduate certificate program in spiritual direction and a Master’s degree program in Pastoral Care and Counseling. with a concentration in spiritual direction.

An agreement detailing the program was signed at the Camden Diocesan Center on Wednesday, September 23 by Bishop Joseph Galante, Sr. Roseann Quinn, SSJ, delegate for Lifelong Faith Formation, Dr. Rosalie Mirenda, president of Neumann University and Dr. Gerald O’Sullivan, vice president of Academic Affairs of the University.

The signers were joined by Dr. Tish Szymurski, Dean of the Continuing Adult & Professional Studies program; Dr. Eileen Flanagan, Associate Professor of Spirituality and Religious Studies; Dr. Joseph Gillespie, Dean of the Division of Education and Human Resources; and Dr. Len DiPaul, Executive Director of Pastoral and Spiritual Studies.

“We come to this day with great joy,” said Dr. Mirenda., “We are so happy to be able to participate in the Camden Diocese’s Lay Ministry Formation Program. I want to thank Bishop Galante, Sr. Roseann, and Kevin (Connor, Director of Lay Ministry Formation) for inviting us and for entering into this agreement. Neumann has a proven academic track record, as both programs have been operating successfully for more than twenty years, I am excited that such an opportunity will now be available to the parishioners of the Camden Diocese.”

Bishop Galante said, “As we have worked through the reconfiguration of parishes in this diocese, the role of the laity and their collaboration with ordained ministers has been of primary importance. As I emphasized when I visited parishes for Speak Up sessions, baptism confers responsibility. We are all charged to give service, to minister, to be prophetic voices, if we are to produce dynamic communities of faith. Yet those who are called to participate in ministry must be well prepared, spiritually and intellectually. That is why this is such a wonderful and important alliance that we have forged.”

Sr. Roseann emphasized the advantages of the degree programs. “In the past, many individuals have participated in non-credited certificate programs. Others have received Associate’s degrees from various local community colleges in South Jersey. The Neumann degree program will bring academic recognition through undergraduate credits granted to students for their past educational experiences. For those students who do not have a college degree, they can pursue their undergraduate degree knowing that they now have far fewer courses required in obtaining their college degree because of the recognition of their past studies. Also, Neumann University offers six-credit courses that enable students to obtain their degree in a much shorter period of time.”

Of the 120 credits required for an undergraduate degree, degree completion students can obtain undergraduate credits for a number of these required credits from their past educational and life experiences. The degree completion program recognizes credit from prior documented university-level learning experiences and professional development activities, credit from undocumented prior learning through portfolio assessment, and the use of challenge exams for certain selected courses in the undergraduate curriculum. At the completion of their studies in this degree completion program, students earn a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies.

Sr. Roseann also said the graduate certificate and Master’s degree program in spiritual direction would be invaluable. “Among ordained deacons, men in the diaconate formation program, and students in the Lay Ministry Formation Program, there is a true demand for qualified spiritual directors but there is not currently an adequate supply. This will address this pressing need.”

The certificate in spiritual direction is a 24 credit graduate program gained in a two year course rotation. The Master’s degree in Pastoral Care and Counseling with concentration in spiritual direction is a 36 credit graduate program that can be completed in either a two year or three year cycle.

Courses for both the undergraduate degree completion program and graduate certificate/Masters degree program can be taken at the Neumann University’s main campus in Aston, PA.

This Neumann University initiative is one component of the diocese’s “Lay Ministry Formation Program” (LMFP) which was announced last fall. The LMFP program offers college and university degree and certificate courses for parish leaders and staff in the diocese who serve in various pastoral ministries, including religious education, youth and young adult ministry, campus ministry, adult faith formation, Hispanic and Black Catholic ministry, parish life, family life, ministry to seniors, and liturgy. Programs are also offered for lay persons involved in pastoral administration, Catholic schools, and parish business management.

In addition to the Neumann University’s undergraduate and graduate programs, the diocese is working in partnership with the College of St. Elizabeth (Morristown, NJ), Georgian Court University (Lakewood, NJ), the Center for Ministry Development (Naugatuck CT), the Northeast Hispanic Catholic Center (New York, NY), St. Charles Borromeo Seminary (Philadelphia, PA) and University of Dayton (Dayton, OH).

More than 280 South Jersey Catholics are enrolled in the Lay Ministry Formation Program this fall.

The diocese also has arranged with the participating colleges and institutions for the courses to be offered at convenient satellite locations within the diocese. The courses are being offered at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Absecon (satellite campus for Georgian Court) and the St. Pius Spiritual Life Center (satellite campus for Georgian Court, College of St. Elizabeth and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary) and John Paul II Retreat Center, Vineland (satellite campus for the Center for Ministry Development and College of St. Elizabeth) and the Romero Center, Camden (satellite campus for College of St. Elizabeth and Center for Ministry Development) and St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral, Camden, Immaculate Conception, Bridgeton and Our Lady Star of the Sea, Atlantic City (all satellite campuses for the Northeast Hispanic Catholic Center).

For more information, course descriptions and a catalogue regarding the Lay Ministry Formation Program, see http://lmfp.camdendiocese.org or contact Kevin Connor, Director of Lay Ministry Formation at 856.583.6122; kevin.connor@camdendiocese.org