UNIVERSITY of NOTRE DAME

INSTITUTE FOR CHURCH LIFE

Applicant FAQs

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General Program Information

What is the origin of the name Echo?

The Greek word for “catechesis” means “to echo into,” derived from “kata” (meaning “into”) and “ekhein” (meaning “to echo”). Jesus, and Moses before him, believed that at some place within us a touchstone of faithfulness could be found, and that the right relationships, the right questions, and the right quiet put us in touch with that faith. Jesus’ interactions and teaching sought to create an echo in those he met, where they could feel God’s faithfulness within and be moved to live and share that faith with others.

Catechesis, or passing on the faith, then, involves helping another discover and echo the faith that already resides deep within. The Echo program is committed to helping apprentices and theology teachers find and echo the faith within each of them and to preparing them to help others do the same. As they serve the Church, Echo theology teachers and apprentice catechetical leaders seek “to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ” (National Directory for Catechesis 19, quoting Catechesi Tradendae 5).

What are the primary dimensions of Echo?

The Echo Faith Formation Leadership Program involves three important dimensions: the M.A. in Theology, service to the Church, and integrative human, communal, and spiritual formation.

How long is the Echo Program?

Echo begins in mid-June each summer and continues for 25 months, with comprehensive exams occurring in late July, following the two-year program experience.

When did Echo begin?

Established in 2003 as part of the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Church Life and Center for Catechetical Initiatives, the Echo program offers new and creative approaches for meeting the current needs of the church by preparing the next generation of catechetical leaders.

The first Echo class, “Echo 1,” began in the summer of 2004 with 13 parish apprentices. Since then, Echo has continued to grow each year. In 2014, the program celebrated 10 years of forming leaders and serving the Church and began offering a new pathway for recent college graduates to serve the Church as theology teachers in Catholic middle schools and high schools.

Is Echo more a “service” program or a graduate degree program?

Echo is a service-learning, formation program that believes that service to the Church, graduate study in theology, and human, communal and spiritual formation are mutually informative and equally essential for lay ministry preparation. Apprentices and theology teachers are expected to commit fully to all dimensions of Echo.

Do you pick a concentration or determine your own coursework during Echo?

Apprentices and theology teachers are students in the General M.A. degree program in Theology and are required to take five core courses as well as several courses in catechesis and elective Catholic theology courses. The Director of the M.A. may require particular courses based on the course offerings for a particular summer. Elective courses will be chosen in consultation with the academic advisor.

 

Eligibility & Admissions

What are the academic prerequisites to be accepted into the program?

Applicants must have received, or expect to receive, a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution of higher education by June 1, with a minimum of 6 credit hours in theology or religious studies. This is a requirement both for the Echo program and for the Notre Dame Graduate School.

Do I have to have a strong background in theology to do Echo? In other words, can I get into the program without having taken theology or philosophy courses?

Although you need not be a theology major or have studied a lot of theology to apply to Echo, all applicants need to meet the usual admission requirements of the M.A. in Theology degree program of the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. Coursework in philosophy, history of Christianity, ethics, or other related fields may fulfill part of the minimum 6 credit requirement. Special circumstances should be discussed with Katie Diltz.

Applicants seeking options to fulfill this prerequisite requirement are invited to consider registering for online 1.0 credit courses through STEP at Notre Dame. More information about STEP courses for Echo prerequisite credit can be found on the Application Materials page. (Contact Katie Diltz if you plan to pursue STEP course for credit.)

I attended a public university. Am I still qualified to apply to Echo?

We accept applicants from public, private, and private-Catholic colleges and universities. The same requirements and academic prerequisites apply to all applicants and specific cases or questions should be directed to Katie Diltz.

Is there a GPA requirement?

Strong candidates for Echo hold a 3.5 GPA or above.  Generally, the Graduate School prefers a GPA of 3.0 or higher but may allow for applicants with lower GPAs to be admitted conditionally as non-degree students. Students are later admitted to degree status subject to successful completion of at least one semester of coursework at 3.0 or above.

How many applicants typically apply? What percentage of applicants are from Notre Dame?

Echo attracts a large, competitive pool each year and is selective in student admission. Each Echo class is made up of qualified students from Notre Dame and other institutions of higher learning.

What is the average size of each Echo class?

The average class size varies.  Now with two tracks within the program, most class sizes range between 20-30 people, with apprentices and theology teachers combined.

What does an ideal Echo candidate look like?

Although there is no “ideal” candidate for Echo, we are looking for participants who are open to formation. A prime Echo candidate would have a strong academic record that would qualify them for a rigorous masters program in theology, a desire to serve the Church through faith formation in a parish or school, and an authentic intention to commit herself/himself to life shared in an intentional faith community for two years. A prime candidate for the parish apprenticeship would have some experience with ministry (not necessarily parish ministry), and a prime candidate for teaching theology would have some experience with teaching (not necessarily formal classroom teaching).

Is it possible to participate in Echo as a married person?

No. Echo is unable to admit married applicants or applicants who intend to marry during the two years of program participation.

Can I live on my own during the two years of the program?

No. Echo formation includes communal formation through life in an intentional faith community. Sharing life and living space with other program participants provides not only a community of peers and a prayer community, but also a support network of people who share in—and therefore understand—catechetical ministry.

Is it possible to use one's current employment as the service element?

No. The Service to the Church component of Echo must be done at placements identified by the Echo partner diocese. Other ministry placements cannot count as the “service” component of Echo.

What is the average age of program participants?

Echo participants are young adults, most commonly recent college graduates, between the ages of twenty-two and twenty-six.

I have already studied catechetics and theology during my undergraduate experience. Is Echo still relevant or worth doing?

Echo is more than an academic degree; it is a formation program that provides you with professional-ministerial development that is valuable for a variety of future career paths. The M.A. coursework is rigorous and varied; even students who study theology at Notre Dame as an undergraduate will find the classes challenging, new, and exciting.

 

Application Process

When is the application deadline?

The application deadline is January 10 and the $75 fee waiver deadline is December 1.  Echo admission offers are made on a rolling basis, beginning in mid March. See the Application Timetable for more information.

Can I apply to both tracks of Echo (Echo Parish Catechetical Leadership and Echo Teaching Theology), or do I have to choose one or the other?

Yes. All applicants are considered for full-time ministry positions through the Echo Parish Catechetical Leadership track. If you would also like to be considered for full-time theology teacher or dual theology teacher/campus minister positions through the Echo Teaching Theology track, you will simply indicate your choice to apply for both at the beginning of the Echo Supplemental Application, found on the Application Materials page. If you are planning to apply to both tracks, you also will answer a few additional questions on the supplemental application.

Do all applicants have to undergo an in-person interview? What if I am abroad or unable to travel to Notre Dame to interview?

Applicants who are invited to interview for Echo are expected to interview in person at Notre Dame. Extraordinary circumstances should be discussed with Echo staff. Echo covers domestic travel costs for applicants who are invited to interview.

What is the most important part of the application? (What portion is given the most consideration?)

We consider the entire application important as a whole (ministry/work experience, resume, essays, recommendation forms, GPA/transcript, GRE scores, in-person interviews), and pay special attention to the essays, interview, and recommendation letters to get a sense of personal character, aptitude for rigorous academic work, and suitability for catechetical ministry.

Do I need to take the GRE? If so, what is the minimum score?

Yes. GRE scores may be submitted along with the Graduate School/Echo Application, and must be submitted by the January 10 deadline. Please make plans to take the GRE before January 10.

Typically our applicants score between a 153-165 on both the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections of the GRE, and a 4.0-5.5 on the Writing portion.  That is the range we are looking for (153 or higher, and 4.0 or higher), which may demand some serious preparation–especially on the verbal section.  We have had people score below and significantly above that range, and we consider the GRE score as one factor of an applicant’s aptitude (also taking into serious consideration the applicant’s academic record).

In brief, the ND Graduate Department of Theology requires the following scores:

  • Verbal Reasoning: 153 out of 170 (or 500 out of 800 on former scale)
  • Quantitative Reasoning: 153 out of 170 (or 500 out of 800 on former scale)
  • Analytic Writing: 4.0 out of 6.0 (scored at half-point increments)

Each applicant’s admissibility will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Do I need to apply to the Graduate School at Notre Dame in addition to applying to Echo?

Yes. All Echo applicants will apply to Echo through the Notre Dame Graduate School (GS) application.  This application, as well as the necessary components for applying to Echo, can be found at the Graduate School’s website (go to “Admissions,” then “Apply Now”). The GS application, the Additional Echo Program Upload, and all supplemental materials (including resume, recommendation letters, and transcripts) are due to the Graduate School no later than January 10 each year.  (See the Echo/Graduate School Application Instructions document available under Application Materials for explicit directions regarding this process.)

I am hoping to apply to Echo down the road. Is there anything I can do now that would help prepare me for Echo?

The best thing for you to do is to gather as much information as you can about the program, speak with members of the staff, current Echo apprentices and theology teachers, and Echo alumni to learn about their experience. Also, we encourage you to participate in activities that will demonstrate the maturity necessary for leadership formation in parish ministry or teaching theology, a willingness to promote the teaching of the Church as an essential aspect of catechetical leadership, and a desire to serve in a partner diocese and live in harmony in an intentional faith community.

 

Program Costs and Benefits

What is the financial cost to participate in Echo as an apprentice or theology teacher?

Tuition is covered in full, as well as housing in your diocesan placement both years and subsequently during both summers spent at Notre Dame. Additional benefits include a summer meal plan in the dining hall and a fully furnished Echo living arrangements in your diocese, which includes paid electric and utilities. Your primary expenses will be books, traveling for work, groceries, and personal expenses.

Do you receive a stipend during Echo?

Yes. All Echo apprentices and theology teachers earn a $12,000-per-year stipend (taxable), distributed over a twelve-month pay cycle.

Can I defer my loans during Echo?

Specific questions regarding loan deferment should be directed to your particular loan provider. The Director of the M.A. in Theology (574.631.4256) can provide proof of full-time student status upon request.

Applicants who attended Notre Dame for their undergraduate degree may contact Notre Dame’s Office of Financial Aid/115 Main Bldg. at 574.631.6436 or finaid@nd.edu.

Am I required to have a car and a drivers license for Echo?

In short, yes.  All Echo participants are asked to have a car and a valid drivers license during the two years of their diocesan placement in order to get from the community’s home to their placement site.  If you do not currently have a license or a car, you are still welcome to apply to Echo; should you be accepted and commit to Echo, you would need to take steps toward acquiring both. Although you need not have a car during Echo summer (June & July), you must have a car from August-May each year.  (Unfortunately, public transportation in the USA is not a sufficient replacement for a car in Echo, especially when considering work hours at the parish and the school.) Please do not let this requirement prohibit you from applying.  Contact Echo ASAP if this might be a concern for you.

 

Service to the Church

What does the parish apprentice do at the partner parish?

The parish apprentice’s work responsibilities vary based on parish needs, apprentice interests and skills, and new areas for exposure and development for the apprentice beyond his/her comfort zone. Ministerial involvement could include faith formation classes, adult faith formation, youth ministry, sacramental preparation, social justice and outreach ministries, bible studies, retreats, and liturgical and music ministries. Apprentices are expected to work 35-40 hrs/wk.

What are the Echo theology teacher's responsibilities at the partner school?

Echo theology teachers typically teach two courses over five class periods throughout the program and are expected to engage in regular homeroom duty and occasional and reasonable athletic/dance supervision. The theology teacher is often responsible for the same courses each of the two years.

Due to the demands of first-year teaching and of Echo program requirements beyond the school, Echo theology teachers are not required to engage in an extracurricular activity during the first year. However, Echo recognizes the importance of the theology teacher’s involvement in the life and culture of the school and the impact a teacher can have outside of the classroom, and so extracurricular involvement is required in the second year. Recognizing the stress associated with first- and second-year teaching and the other ongoing requirements of Echo theology teachers, the program asks that the extracurricular involvement is limited to one activity.

Can Echo theology teachers be placed in campus ministry positions?

A limited number of Echo participants are assigned to full-time high school campus ministry positions or dual theology teacher/campus minister positions. Those who are admitted into the program will have an opportunity to express their preferences regarding this role.

Theology teachers who are not placed in a campus ministry position often have the opportunity to assist in a limited capacity with campus ministry liturgies and retreats in addition to their teaching responsibilities.

Are there any education classes in Echo?

In addition to taking graduate-level theology courses, Echo theology teachers participate in classes and workshops focusing on theological pedagogy. However, the degree earned in Echo is an M.A. in Theology, not a master’s degree in Education.

 

Community & Placement

Where could I possibly be placed if I were to do Echo? Do I have a say in this placement? How do you decide where each student goes?

The Echo Program announces partner dioceses in April or May. Admitted applicants are asked to commit to the program before knowing where they will be placed. Those who accept an invitation to join Echo will rank possible diocesan placements in their order of preference. The Echo admissions committee considers individual preferences and many other factors as they prayerfully discern the make up of each Echo community. Apprentices, theology teachers, and mentors also complete a Discernment Tool that helps the Echo staff and diocesan leaders make parish and school placements, which are announced during orientation in June.

How many people typically live in an Echo community?

Echo communities include between three and five apprentices and/or theology teachers.

Are multiple Echo parish apprentices ever placed at the same parish?

Each Echo apprentice in a community typically has a separate parish/site assignment.

Are multiple Echo theology teachers ever placed at the same school?

Echo theology teachers could be placed in the same school, but they would each have a separate mentor and separate teaching responsibilities.

Am I required to have a car during my time in Echo?

Yes. Due to varied work hours, apprentices and theology teachers are each required to have their own vehicle during the two-year program. (See a more detailed response under “Program Costs and Benefits.”)

Are there opportunities to serve in a type of music ministry during my time in Echo?

Yes. Echo apprentices and theology teachers can get involved in their parish choir or school liturgical choir, and all program participants have the opportunity to coordinate music for liturgies and retreats during summers at Notre Dame.

 

Post-Echo Plans

What do most Echo graduates do after Echo?

Those who have completed the Echo program and have received the M.A. degree in Theology have taken diverse and inspiring paths, including:

  • Parish catechetical ministry
  • Parish youth ministry
  • Parish pastoral associate
  • Parish young adult ministry
  • Multicultural parish ministry
  • Diocesan leadership
  • Adult faith formation leadership
  • Seminary (priesthood)
  • Religious life
  • Catholic high school teaching
  • Catholic high school campus ministry
  • College/university catechetical ministry
  • Catholic Worker community
  • Marketing/communications director for Catholic organizations
  • Law school; MSW study; M.Ed. study
  • Ph.D. study in Theology