By Kenneth J. Souza, Anchor Staff
FALL RIVER, Mass. — Two people from the Fall River Diocese were among the first to complete and earn Master of Arts in Ministry degrees from the Theological Institute for the New Evangelization at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton recently.
Deacon Peter R. Cote, permanent deacon at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in Fall River, and Jennifer Linehan, newly-appointed Director of Faith Formation at St. Mary’s Parish in Mansfield, were among the 20 graduates — the largest group to date — to receive degrees from Cardinal Séan P. O’Malley, OFM, Cap., during May 22 commencement exercises held in the seminary chapel.
“I sought to apply for certification as a chaplain from the National Association of Catholic Chaplains and a theological or pastoral graduate degree is mandated,” explained Deacon Cote, who also serves as director of pastoral care for Catholic Memorial Home in Fall River. “My diaconal formation was an excellent experience, but it did not fulfill this requirement. The environment as well as the academic standards were both important to me in my decision as to where to pursue my education … and I found (St. John’s Seminary) exceeded all my expectations.”
After receiving a degree in marine biology from Roger Williams University in 2010, Linehan said she soon learned that God was calling her to “lead young people closer to Him.”
“Through my discernment God provided an opportunity to chaperone a retreat, one that I went on multiple times in high school,” Linehan told The Anchor. “The retreat was lead by my youth minister, Jeff Cahill, a graduate of the Master of Arts in Ministry. The theme of the retreat was on God’s plan for our life, so when I approached him about following God’s plan, he directed me to … the Theological Institute.”
The Theological Institute for the New Evangelization — commonly referred to as TINE — was established by Cardinal O’Malley and was conceived under the leadership of Bishop Arthur Kennedy, then-rector of St. John’s Seminary.
TINE is geared towards laity, deacons, and religious and the program aims to give Catholics the whole-person formation needed to fulfill their mission in Christ. It includes two degree levels: the Master of Arts in Ministry degree and the Master of Theological Studies for the New Evangelization. The Institute also offers non-degree certificate programs, the Foundational Certificate and the Advanced Certificate.
Since 1999 the Master of Arts in Ministry degree program, under the direction of Dr. Aldona Lingertat, Ph.D., has graduated close to 100 students and has reached many more with its distinctive brand of whole-person formation for lay ecclesial ministry and evangelization in the parish.
After three years of study, Linehan expressed great joy at receiving her degree.
“The professors and community atmosphere of TINE along with the challenging academics and spirituality made going each week to class a true blessing,” she said.
TINE essentially consolidates and expands upon the programs that have been offered to men preparing for the priesthood at St. John’s Seminary for more than 125 years.
According to the seminary’s website: “The Theological Institute is a response by the seminary to the increasingly urgent call from the Church, especially since Vatican II, for a more energetic evangelization of the parish and the world, exemplified in Pope Benedict’s recent establishment of a new Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization and in Cardinal Seán O’Malley’s vigorous focus on evangelization.”
While juggling his other responsibilities, Deacon Cote said he took two classes per semester and one during the summer over a three-year period to earn the degree.
“I enjoyed all the courses, but I was especially drawn toward those dealing directly with Scripture and moral theology,” he said. “Certainly my preaching has been better-informed as well as my instruction to Religious Education students and adults preparing to receive the Sacraments. The formation curriculum at TINE also heightened my awareness of pastoral concerns.”
Linehan echoed Deacon Cote’s appreciation for courses on Scripture and moral theology and also said she enjoyed learning more about canon law and the Sacraments.
“The lessons that I learned at TINE will greatly benefit my work as the director of Faith Formation at St. Mary’s Parish,” she said. “Along with learning the theology, each class provided skills and tools to handle different pastoral situations. Our society is in need of the true joy of the Gospel, people who are armed with the truths of our faith and are not afraid to live them out. Each class I took provided another tool that I can use to bring people back to the true beauty of Catholicism.”
As she prepares to take on her new role as director of Faith Formation at St. Mary’s Parish, Linehan hopes to share what she’s learned at TINE with others.
“To have the knowledge is to have power,” she said. “We are confronted on a daily basis with people criticizing our beliefs and misunderstanding our Church. When people fully understand the reasons behind the different ‘controversial’ Church teachings, they are filled with the confidence to be able to defend it.
“The Church needs more Catholics to be filled with the desire to learn and grow in their faith so we can live as Christ’s disciples out on the front lines bringing God’s love to the world. God created us to be those beacons of light in the world and to go out and speak the truth.”
“One can never learn enough,” Deacon Cote agreed. “It’s a cliché, but it’s still true: the more you know, the more you realize that you don’t. God invites us to know Him better in any way we can. I would recommend TINE to anyone. In fact, if the opportunity presents itself to attend classes — as it did to me — consider it a personal invitation from above. Certainly I would have nothing if He didn’t give it to me.”
Like Mary’s fiat, Linehan similarly urged those seeking to learn more about their faith to just say “yes.”
“Don’t question, just do it,” she said. “Drive up to Brighton, sit in on a class, and witness the level of spirituality, knowledge and community that is present within the TINE program firsthand. I entered the program as one of the youngest students only knowing that God wanted me to work with young people. I would have never thought of all the blessings that came with attending TINE. The friendships, knowledge and depth in spirituality that I gained while I was there are immeasurable.”
“Surrender to the work involved as if it were God’s will to do so, and you may discover that it is,” Deacon Cote added. “This yields peace, gratitude, and a superb education as His gifts and the reward of your surrender.”
Just a few weeks from completing her three-year stint at TINE, Linehan said she already misses “having a place filled with community and theological discussions.”
“I truly encourage any person who has the desire to increase their faith or feel God calling them to a different path in life to say ‘yes,’” she said. “God has blessed us with TINE to give us the knowledge and confidence needed to be good evangelizers.”
For more information about the Theological Institute for the New Evangelization at St. John’s Seminary, visit www.tineboston.org.