Spiritual formation, conducted individually and in groups, is at the heart of the Master of Arts in Ministry program. It “aims to arouse and animate true hunger for holiness, desire for union with the Father through Christ in the Spirit, daily growing in love of God and neighbor in life and ministry, and the practices of prayer and spirituality that foster these attitudes and dispositions. It promotes and strengthens that fundamental conversion that places God, and not oneself, at the center of one’s life. Openness to this ongoing conversion is a prerequisite for fruitful spiritual formation. “A personal experience in and through the Church of the love of the Father in Christ and through his Spirit is foundational for all ministry, as it is for true discipleship. If ministry does not flow from a personal encounter and ongoing relationship with the Lord, then no matter how “accomplished” it may be in its methods and activities, that ministry will lack the vital soul and source needed to bear lasting fruit. Nothing can substitute for this true conversion and personal encounter with Christ. Spiritual formation cannot produce fruit, for it is God’s gracious gift; but spiritual formation can teach and help those who seek it, prepare them to receive it, and when it is give, develop its fruits in their lives and ministry.” (Co-Workers in the Vineyard, p. 38).
Students are expected to participate actively and regularly in the sacramental life of their local parishes and to center their spiritual life on the Eucharist. The desire to grow in the spiritual life is an important aspect in evaluation whether to accept an applicant or not. Daily prayer is essential in the life of a lay minister. The spiritual formation program offers instruction in various methods of prayer and supplements classes with individual spiritual direction so that, whether students arrive with a solid prayer life or a less developed one, Their prayer life will be deepened and broadened through the two years of formation. The primary elements of spiritual formation are regular participation in the sacraments, individual spiritual direction, annual retreats, and monthly prayer and formation meetings. There are also opportunities for evening prayer on a weekly basis and the chapel is available for individual and group prayer. The formation program offers many informal opportunities to share and witness to the faith, supplementing formal learning.
The Master of Arts in Ministry student is assisted in his or her formation by an approved spiritual director. Through frequent conversation with his or her director, the student has the opportunity to grow in self-knowledge, to understand better the desires of his or her heart, and to respond more generously to the mystery of God’s grace in order to conform him or herself more closely to Christ. Monthly formation workshops provide opportunities to learn methods of prayer and to deepen attentiveness to the mystery of God’s presence and power. An annual class retreat at the opening of the school year and individually scheduled retreats during the school year are also key elements of a solid spiritual life, and thus are required of students.