The Archdiocese of Cincinnati will offer its lay ecclesial ministry program beginning in September at St. Charles Center in Carthagena, Ohio.

The two-year program includes Saturday courses in such topics as Old and New Testament Scripture; Church history; basic doctrine; and morality and justice in Catholic life.

The program is a starting point for men who are discerning a call to the permanent diaconate; and offers formation for parish staff members and others who work for the Church, and lay volunteers. People can enroll for individual classes, or for the entire program. Adult Catholics of all ages and backgrounds are welcome, including those who simply want to learn more about their Catholic faith.

And there’s one other thing that Dr. Susan Fleming McGurgan, director of lay ecclesial formation for the archdiocese’s School of Theology, wants you to know.

“It’s fun!” she said.

People who go through the entire program really get to know and appreciate each other, she said. “Especially in the northern area, there’s a camaraderie in our classes. People really form a community and often become lifelong friends,” she said.

The archdiocese offers the program at its Mount St. Mary’s Seminary and School of Theology in Cincinnati, and concurrently at a location in its northern region.

Offering the classes at St. Charles will allow lay people in the St. Marys and Sidney Deaneries relatively easy access to quality classes, Dr. McGurgan said.

“These classes are substantial. They are taught at the undergraduate level by very qualified instructors,” she said.

At the same time, no one should be intimidated by the coursework, which includes reading, writing papers and completing ministerial requirements. “We offer a lot of support. Nobody fails,” Dr. McGurgan said. “I have worked with literally hundreds of participants in this program. We have people who struggled in high school, to actual rocket scientists, and everybody in between. They all do well because they are learning what they love.

“Also, age is not a limitation. We currently have two women over the age of 70 at our main campus who are working on their masters.”

At this point, Fr. Ryan Ruiz, dean of the School of Theology, is planning for most of the fall classes to be offered in person. Some courses may be offered online.

Tom Kueterman, the director of the St. Mary’s Deanery training center at St. Charles, is working with Mount St. Mary’s to bring the program there. He sees the satellite program as a real boon both to St. Charles and to lay people in the northern area, making it much more accessible for people who would find travel to Cincinnati difficult if not impossible.

“There are a lot of people who probably could not make that trip: farmers, or people with three or four kids at home, for instance,” he said.

Working with the Missionaries, he dreams of making St. Charles a distance-learning center with new equipment and greater digital capabilities. That would benefit the Missionaries, no matter where they live, and their neighboring faith communities, he said.

In the meantime, lay people are encouraged to consider the lay ecclesial ministry program. Enrollees may take courses for credit, or simply audit them. Those who audit the classes would not write papers or complete other assignments outside of class.

The application process begins with a personal interview, conducted via Zoom. Applications for those who intend to complete the entire program should be completed by early July. (Tuition assistance may also be available to those who intend to complete the entire two-year program.)

Those who want to sign up for a single course or to audit courses may register up to two weeks before classes begin in September.

For more information, contact Dr. McGurgan at or 513-233-6127.


Missionaries of the Precious Blood