Human & Communal Formation
Echo apprentices and theology teachers are mature, faithful, and committed young adults who not only live together but also create community together by sharing the joys and challenges of their daily lives and the faith that unites and sustains them. Human and communal formation in Echo offers apprentices and theology teachers the opportunity to participate in several different kinds of community—the M.A. Theology community, the larger Echo community, an intentional faith community, and a diocesan and parish/school community—while deepening their capacity for personal growth, healthy relationships and a life-giving community experience.
During summers at Notre Dame, apprentices and theology teachers benefit from living, praying, studying and socializing with the M.A. Theology student community, participating in Echo community events (e.g., orientation, community service, retreats), and meeting weekly for dinner and prayer with their specific intentional faith community. Once on-site in their arch/diocese, intentional faith communities live in diocesan-provided housing and continue to meet regularly for the following:
- designated weekly community nights that include a shared meal, prayer and activity;
- communal prayer two to three times each week (in addition to community night); and
- regular house meetings to establish household responsibilities and discuss communal concerns.
Echo prepares apprentices and theology teachers for communal living and facilitates human development by providing the following:
- a thorough orientation, including a comprehensive Guide for Community Living, outlining program expectations and helpful practical suggestions, and interactive orientation sessions with insights from Echo graduates;
- workshops on facilitating faith-sharing and seeking spiritual direction;
- a series of human development workshops on topics such as communication, conflict management, healthy boundaries, family systems, emotional health, and relationships and sexuality;
- ongoing support from Echo staff who meet with apprentices and theology teachers throughout the summer, visit Echo communities each fall and spring, and are available for consultation as needed; and
- an Echo Formation Assistant (EFA), who lives within a partner diocese and offers primary local support to apprentices and theology teachers through facilitated retreats and monthly individual and communal meetings.
In order to lead others in faith formation, ministers must continually engage in their own spiritual formation. In Echo, apprentices and theology teachers make a serious commitment to deepening their faith in Christ, to developing their ability to express that faith, and to learning how to become effective ministers of the Spirit to others.
Spiritual formation in Echo includes the development of an annual Formation Covenant that outlines an apprentice’s or theology teacher’s commitment to the following:
Personal and Communal Prayer
Cultivating a consistent personal prayer life is essential for any professional minister or theology teacher, as is sharing prayer with one’s community members. Echo apprentices and theology teachers are committed to consistent personal prayer, to gathering as a house community for prayer and faith-sharing several times a week, and to worshipping frequently with their parish community. The Echo staff introduces apprentices and theology teachers to a variety of prayer styles and experiences.
Spiritual Direction is an invaluable opportunity to reflect upon all dimensions of life and relationships, and to become more aware of the presence of God in one’s daily life and work. Apprentices and theology teachers are educated in the nature of spiritual direction and are required to meet regularly with a spiritual director throughout the two years. Apprentices and theology teachers receive a list of potential local spiritual directors to help in their selection.
Participation in Parish Life
The Echo partner parish is not just a workplace but also a living community of faith in which the apprentice becomes an active, worshipping member. Likewise, Echo theology teachers engage in the faith life of the partner school and their local parish community. Participation in the sacramental, service, and social life of this local Church puts apprentices and theology teachers in touch with the Body of Christ that is their parish community and plays a critical role in their ongoing spiritual formation.
Apprentices and theology teachers participate in several different kinds of retreats each year, designed to engage their minds, bodies, and spirits in prayer and the sacraments, theological reflection and integration, and creative activities and celebration. Annually, these retreats include the following:
- three dynamic, theologically based retreats for all Echo apprentices and theology teachers, led by the Echo staff;
- two days of reflection for individual Echo faith communities, led by their respective Echo Formation Assistant (EFA) and diocesan leader;
- one personal retreat to be taken between September and May; and
- a graduate day of reflection in July to conclude the Echo experience.