Loyola Marymount University has been awarded a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to support efforts to transform Catholic leadership in Southern California. The grant is funding an interdisciplinary initiative between the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts’ Department of Theological Studies and Mission and Ministry’s Center for Religion and Spirituality. Lilly Endowment made the grant through the second phase of its Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative, which is designed to aid theological schools in the United States and Canada in the development of pastoral leaders for Christian churches.
The Department of Theological Studies offers several degree programs: an undergraduate major in Theology, an undergraduate minor in Theology, and two Master of Arts degrees (Theology and Pastoral Theology). The two graduate programs have evolved over the last decade to more closely reflect the demographics of Southern California, aligning with our belief that today’s pastoral leadership must better reflect the demographic complexity of our religious environment. They primarily serve Catholic constituencies in Southern California, and LMU is poised to train and place qualified spiritual directors in especially underserved Hispanic, African American, Asian American, and Pacific Islander communities.
Lilly Endowment’s grant will support LMU’s efforts to dramatically increase access to theological education and pastoral formation for underserved and/or younger populations in Southern California, including creating pathways for younger prospective students entering LMU as undergraduates, or for non-traditional students who have not been able to secure a baccalaureate degree. In addition, it will be used to equip Catholic pastoral leaders in Southern California with more tools to address the most challenging aspects of ecclesial life in greater Los Angeles—racial and ethnic injustice, disaffiliation, a lack of understanding about growing religious diversity, and a coming wave of leadership transition as senior Catholic leaders formed in the wake of the Second Vatican Council continue to retire.
Amir Hussain, Chair and Professor of Theological Studies, will be leading efforts to expand the undergraduate major in Theological Studies; nurture relationships with the four Catholic high schools served by the LMU School of Education Family of Schools; develop a rigorous and successful set of hybrid and online courses catered towards underserved students; and create a more intentional process of support for students without generational familiarity with higher education in the United States. He says: “We are delighted that the Lilly Endowment will help us to prepare Catholic leaders for the complex world of the 21st century, especially in Southern California, where LMU is uniquely poised to make a decisive difference.”