Augustine Institute Renames Leadership Program, Now Available Online

Curriculum is geared toward laity working in full-time Church ministry.

The newly named M.A. in Pastoral Theology, taking effect in the fall 2022 term, will be available on campus and online for the first time.
The newly named M.A. in Pastoral Theology, taking effect in the fall 2022 term, will be available on campus and online for the first time. (photo: Josh Applegate / Courtesy of Augustine Institute)

The Augustine Institute Graduate School has renamed its Master of Arts in Leadership for the New Evangelization to the M.A. in Pastoral Theology, taking effect in the fall 2022 term. This program will be available on-campus and online for the first time. 

Founded in 2005, the Augustine Institute exists to form Catholics for the New Evangelization, equipping “Catholics intellectually, spiritually, and pastorally to renew the Church and transform the world for Christ.” Its pastoral theology program combines these goals with the aim of aiding men and women currently working in ministry, according to Lucas Pollice, director of the pastoral theology program. 

“The biggest strength of this program is its holistic formation,” Pollice said. “We really prepare people for lay leadership in the Church because of the holistic, well-rounded formation, not only in deep theology and spiritual formation, but in other skills that are critical.”

Pollice, who has more than 25 years of ministry experience, said that the four pillars of this program — theological formation; spiritual formation; pastoral, evangelistic and catechetical formation; and human formation — distinguish it from other programs. 

Students in the program still partake in six of the core theology courses, such as “Salvation History,” “Jesus in the Gospels,” “Mystagogy” and “The Creed”; but these courses are then paired with the third and fourth pillars, equipping students with practical skills necessary for lay leadership, he said. 

“These days we really need a well-informed and sophisticated and articulate laity as leaders in the Church. It’s not easy,” Pollice said.

The Leadership for the New Evangelization program began in 2014 as an on-campus-only degree program, Pollice said. Now, the pastoral theology program has become both an on-campus and distance-education program.

“While we have a fantastic on-campus program here in Denver, there’s a lot of people out there in the Church and full-time ministry already, and we don’t want them to quit their full-time ministry and move to Denver for two years,” Pollice said. “This degree program and the formation we provide is really for people who are either preparing for or are already in full-time ministry.”


Reaching Hearts and Minds

The name change of this program lends to the idea that the laity need both rich theological and spiritual formation and the ability to apply it to ministry in a pastoral, catechetical way, Pollice said. 

“Pastoral theology is all about taking the richness and the beauty of our faith and presenting it in a way that’s going to reach the hearts and minds of modern men and women. We really want to capture that as the heart of what we’re doing in this degree program.”

Pollice said that this work keeps him grounded in the realities of the Church and our culture. 

“I don’t want to be a professor in an ‘ivory tower,’” Pollice said. “It’s really exciting preparing students for leadership in the Church or working with people who are in ministry.”

Pollice has seen students go on to work in a variety of roles in the Church, including as coordinators for evangelization, directors of marriage and family life, and faith formation directors at universities. Now, with distance education, Pollice gets to work with students actively participating in ministry. 

The Augustine Institute Graduate School has even partnered with the Diocese of Colorado Springs, Colorado, to form a distance cohort. This cohort, which already includes four deacons, will meet monthly via Zoom to share ministry experiences and learn from one other. 

“These seminars are all geared towards helping to immediately integrate what they’re learning in the classroom to what they’re currently doing in their ministry,” Pollice said. 


Student Life and Post-Graduation Work 

Incoming student Gladys Oster visited the Augustine Institute from Michigan last summer during its “City of God” seminar, she said. At the time, she wasn’t considering getting a master’s in theology, but after visiting campus, she felt right at home. 

“I just couldn’t get the Augustine Institute out of my head,” Oster said. “The joy at the Augustine Institute is just incredible.”

Oster said she’s excited for the community at the Augustine Institute. 

“Their commitment to the Catholic Church is very apparent, even in the way that [the faculty] are raising their families and then welcoming students into their families,” Oster said. 

Oster, who will be taking the pastoral theology program, said she is excited for the various practicum opportunities at Denver’s surrounding apostulates, such as Christ in the City, Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women (Endow) and a Catholic counseling group. 

“I just kept thinking about the warmth, the kindness, and the joy. I felt that as soon as I entered the first building,” Oster said. “I just felt the holiness and the love from the people. I honestly never experienced something like that. It was just lovely.”

After graduating from the Augustine Institute this year, Katie O’Neil took on a job as Augustine’s marketing content specialist. 

“The first time I walked on campus I thought, ‘This is the real deal,’” O’Neil said. “The prayer life, friendships and community here have been totally transformative.”

O’Neil said she’s grateful that she gets to continue her experience at the Augustine Institute now through her work. She emphasized the deeper freedom and healing she was brought into through her classes and spiritual direction and how she didn’t know how much God loved her until she came to the Augustine Institute. 

“What we received through the formation is not just for ourselves, but it’s meant to be a gift to others, as well,” O’Neil said. “The Augustine Institute is so successful because it places the sacraments first, and it places prayer first.”

O’Neil said she has been able to apply numerous lessons from the Augustine Institute directly into her life, whether it’s talking to strangers on airplanes who don’t know Jesus or next-door neighbors who are curious about the Church. 

After completing the pastoral theology program this year — known as Leadership for the New Evangelization during her time — Emily Wilson accepted a job as director of religious education for a Denver parish. 

 “After my first class, I left thanking my professor and saying, ‘This is what I’ve been waiting for,’” Wilson said. “I’ve been waiting for someone to honor my intellect by giving me the meat and the substance of the faith to be able to communicate it to others.”

Wilson remembers Pollice telling her class that the New Evangelization is a home game, which changed her perspective on evangelization and mission. 

“The Catholic Church desires to give life fully to every person,” Wilson said. “I love Pollice’s analogy that we have all the advantages on our side cheering for us, and we have what every heart longs for.”

Wilson said that there has been no place that has formed her to love others, the Church and souls more than the Augustine Institute. The pastoral theology program in particular has taught Wilson techniques and strategies to communicate her experiences and knowledge of the faith. 

“We don’t study theology [just] for ourselves,” Wilson said. “We study theology so that we can communicate the love of God and his invitation of love to all souls. This program has formed me to be generous with my knowledge.”