A Same and Different Future: A Study of Graduate Ministry Education in Catholic Institutions of Higher Learning in the United States

Lee, Bernard J., S.M., Fleischer, Barbara J., and Topper, Charles, "A Same and Different Future: A Study of Graduate Ministry Education in Catholic Institutions of Higher Learning in the United States." Loyola Institute for Ministry, The Association of Graduate Programs in Ministry (AGPIM), n.d.

"A Same and Different Future" summarizes the findings of two Lilly Endowment funded studies conducted for the Association of Graduate Programs in Ministry. The first section of the report describes the authors' program of research. Barbara Fleischer surveyed entering and graduating students enrolled in AGPIM's member institutions, while the research team led by Charles Topper gathered data pertaining to the ministry preparation programs themselves. "Ministers of the Future," the section of the report based upon Fleischer's research, presents a demographic profile of graduate ministry students. According to Fleischer, "The AGPIM graduate ministry student is one who is more likely than not to be Catholic, white, female, between 35 and 50 years of age . . ." The majority of AGPIM students have attended Catholic schools at some point in their lives, and have previous experience in church work. Fleischer suggests that as the number of religious pursuing ministry training declines, parishes and dioceses may need to provide more financial support for ministry training in order to ensure the continued availability of well-prepared ministers. Fleischer's comparisons of entering and graduating ministry students have identified significant differences between the two groups in terms of self-reported theological knowledge and skills, political attitudes, and measures of egalitarianism and commitment to social justice. The study revealed few differences between the two groups' religious practices or levels of religious commitment, however. The third section of the report, which was contributed by Charles Topper's research team, provides detailed statistical information about the ministry preparation programs offered by AGPIM's member institutions. Enrollment trends, admissions requirements, programs of study, finances, recruitment, and opportunities for spiritual formation are among the subjects addressed in "Education for Ministry." Finally, Bernard J. Lee's conclusion points to the increasing importance of lay perspectives in the leadership structure of the church. Lee describes the development of a "lay hermeneutic," or an interpretation of Catholic identity informed by lay experience.