UNIVERSITY of NOTRE DAME

INSTITUTE FOR CHURCH LIFE

Applicant FAQs

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Program FAQs

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 four important dimensions: academic formation, professional-ministerial formation, human and communal formation, 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 apprenticeship.

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. Since then, Echo has continued to grow each year. In 2014, the program celebrated 10 years of forming leaders and serving the Church.

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

Echo is a service-learning, formation program that believes that parish/school service, 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.

 

Eligibility & Admissions FAQs

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. 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 the minimum 6 credit requirement. Special circumstances should be discussed with Echo staff and/or administrators in the Department of Theology.

If I am a theology or religious studies major or have taken theology courses at the graduate level, can I receive advanced credit to count toward my M.A. degree?

The Department of Theology at Notre Dame can offer advanced standing up to 6 credits of “equivalent coursework.” Qualification details can be discussed further with the director of the M.A. in Theology upon admission to the Echo Program.

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 the Assistant Director of Recruitment and Outreach.

Is there a GPA requirement?

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 is 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 each year is 12 students, but may vary depending on the diocesan partnerships for the year. In past years, the smallest class size was 10, and the largest was 17.

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 for ministry in faith formation, 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 professional-ministerial formation 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 FAQs

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 in late February. See Application Timeline for exact dates.

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, or may be submitted soon after the January 10th deadline. Although you do not need to have taken the GRE before the January 10th Echo deadline, candidates who are invited to interview will need to submit GRE scores to the Notre Dame Graduate School by February 1st (before Echo interviews in February).

Typically our applicants score between a 153-160 on both the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections of the GRE.  That is the range we are looking for (153 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 (considering, especially, their 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 therefore 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 are due to the Graduate School no later than January 10th 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 be doing now that would best 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 in the meantime, 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 arrangement 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 either a nine or a twelve-month pay cycle, depending on the diocese in which they serve.

Can I defer my loans during Echo?

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

 

Community & Placement FAQs

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. Admitted applicants are asked to commit to the program in March before knowing where they may 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 complete a Discernment Tool that helps the Echo staff and diocesan leader 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 or theology teachers.

Are multiple Echo apprentices ever placed at the same parish?

Each Echo apprentice in a community 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 required to have their own vehicle during the two-year program.

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

Yes. Echo apprentices and theology teachers get involved in their parish choir(s), and have the opportunity to coordinate music for liturgies, prayer services, and retreats during summers at Notre Dame.

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 courses in six areas of theological study as well as several courses in catechesis. Non-required courses will be chosen in consultation with the recommendations of the M.A. Director.

 

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:

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