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The Josephinum Diaconate Institute Receives Grant from Lilly Endowment

The Pontifical College Josephinum has received a grant of $878,790 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help the Josephinum Diaconate Institute strengthen pre- and post-ordination diaconate formation in the Roman Catholic Church on a national and worldwide basis.


The effort is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative. It 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 into the future.


The Josephinum Diaconate Institute (JDI) was inaugurated by the Pontifical College Josephinum seminary in Columbus, Ohio in 2007 in response to the continuing education and formation requirements of permanent deacons, in accord with the USCCB’s National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and the Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States. The JDI offers educational programs through distance learning – in both English and Spanish – to diaconal aspirants and candidates, permanent deacons and their spouses, and lay ministers serving or preparing to serve the people of God through ministry in the Catholic Church.


“The Catholic Church in the United States needs spiritual leaders who acknowledge the importance of continued theological study, are conversant in social sciences relevant to pastoral ministry, and who are attuned to the competencies and skills needed for ministry to others,” said Very Reverend Steven P. Beseau, Rector/President of the Josephinum.


The U.S Catholic Church’s 37,000 priests are supported in their care of congregations by 18,000 permanent deacons and lay ecclesial leaders. Although ordained to a distinct sacred office, permanent deacons face many of the same challenges today as priests, such as a decrease in their numbers and an increase in their pastoral responsibilities. Deacons must also comply with many of the same ecclesial directives as those of priests; prominent among them is the need to commit themselves to a lifelong program of ongoing education.


“The grant from Lilly Endowment will enable the JDI to respond to the urgent need for programs designed to assist deacons in balancing the demands of their familial, professional and ministerial lives, stay current with professional advancements, and become attuned to a changing cultural climate that challenges the beliefs, values, and quality of life of the faithful they serve,” said Father Beseau. “Ultimately, the developments made possible by this funding will empower the Institute to further its mission to offer programs that instill in permanent deacons a lifelong thirst to grow intellectually, pastorally, and spiritually.”


Grant funding will empower the JDI to move forward with a five-year action plan to: Address the requirements of a comprehensive ongoing formation program for clergy; develop models for the continuing education of deacons that build upon pre-ordination formation programs; conduct assessment of its programs; develop collaborative networks for the exchange of ideas to foster development of a theology of ongoing formation; support review and enhancement of its communication platforms; and promote research on how ongoing formation may assist in addressing the growing attrition rate of deacons and priests in their first years of ministry and identify ways to assist dioceses in addressing its current clergy wellness challenges.


Numbered among the project collaborators are the country’s leading organizations responsible for clerical formation: the National Association of Diaconate Directors, providing counsel and resources to the USCCB’s Office on Clergy and Consecrated Life; the National Diaconate Institute for Continuing Education; Fundación Ramon Pane, and the Archdiocese of Galveston/Houston, one of the nation’s most ethnically diverse archdioceses and home of the nation’s largest diaconate program.


The Pontifical College Josephinum 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 (e.g., Church of the Brethren, Mennonite, 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, Lilly 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.”


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. 


About Lilly Endowment Inc.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly, Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. Although the gifts of stock remain a financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its founders’ hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana.  The primary aim of its grantmaking in religion, which is national in scope, focuses on strengthening the leadership and vitality of Christian congregations in the United States. The Endowment also seeks to foster public understanding about religion and lift up in fair, accurate and balanced ways the contributions that people of all faiths and religious communities make to our greater civic well-being.

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