Campuses at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Plymouth, St. Thomas More in Troy make theology studies accessible to more people
SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Beginning this fall, Sacred Heart Major Seminary will offer classes at two new satellite locations, at St. Thomas More Parish in Troy and Our Lady of Good Counsel in Plymouth, where lay people can further grow their faith through theology courses.
The two campuses will be in addition to an already-existing satellite campus at St. John Vianney in Shelby Township, which began offering classes in the fall of 2022.
The seminary has made three-year commitments to stay in each parish and will offer six courses, one per semester, for students to achieve their Certificate in the Catholic Theology, explained John Lajiness, director of admissions and enrollment management for Sacred Heart.
Lajiness, who oversees all 400-some lay students, said more than 60 percent of all “commuter” students take classes on its Detroit campus. Over the years, however, the seminary has offered satellite locations across the archdiocese on a rotational basis.
In the past, campuses have been set up at St. Andrew in Rochester, Our Lady of Sorrows in Farmington, and once in Spanish at St. Damian of Molokai in Pontiac. The courses are an excellent opportunity for those wanting to grow in their discipleship, as lay ministers or simply as more active members of their communities, Lajiness told Detroit Catholic.
“This is a movement of the Holy Spirit akin to the archbishop's vision from Unleash the Gospel, and the seminary's commitment to forming leaders in the new evangelization,” Lajiness said. “I had one pastor tell me, ‘I don’t really need a staff of 12; I need a staff of 12,000. I need my whole parish engaged in spiritual multiplication and making disciples of others.’”
The courses are offered one night a week and can accommodate up to 25 students at a time, Lajiness said. The student’s tuition cost is the same as if they were on the Detroit campus, and students have access to the same on-campus and online resources that any other Sacred Heart enrollee is given, including financial aid.
Lajiness said one priest he spoke with, Fr. Jim Grau at St. John Vianney, expressed a desire to host the courses. Fr. Grau wanted his staff to have access to Sacred Heart's offerings, but the distance from Detroit made the prospect impractical, and he didn't want to subject them to more virtual learning.
“He was eager to have an in-person experience. We put something together and worked with 14 different churches around his parish, including all the churches in his Family of Parishes,” Lajiness said.
The response was overwhelming: 25 students from 11 different parishes enrolled at the St. John Vianney campus. This response encouraged the seminary to further expand its outreach, and Lajiness reached out to Our Lady of Good Counsel and St. Thomas More to serve as satellite campuses for their areas.
“These courses are really a gift from the Holy Spirit to be able to tear down all the barriers that might have kept someone from making the next steps,” Lajiness said.
St. John Vianney parishioner Paul Kulick had long felt something pushing him to deepen his understanding of his faith. Kulick, 55, who works in finance, decided to investigate Sacred Heart's website to see if he could sit in on classes at the seminary — but nothing matched his needs.
“As crazy as this is going to sound, the next week, we went to church, and in the church paper, there was an ad that classes would be coming to St. John Vianney,” Kulick told Detroit Catholic. “I applied for admission in May of 2022 when the academic calendar opened up. I was accepted in July and started classes in September.”
Although Kulick was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools, he said he learned more in his Intro to Theology and Sacred Scripture courses than he did throughout 12 years in Catholic school, particularly about the Bible.
“I tried to read the Bible, and I got a book on how to read the Bible but couldn’t get through it. I started three or four times and had false starts, but I could just never get through it,” Kulick said. “I shelved that idea for probably three or four years and felt this calling.”
Studying scripture has been eye-opening, Kulick explained.
“Before I took the class, I didn’t really understand the whole timeline and context of the Bible: where the Acts of the Apostles fit in a chronological timeline, or why St. Peter wrote letters, or St. Paul wrote letters,” Kulick said. “(Understanding) it grounded me. Now I go and listen to a reading in church, and I can put it in context. It makes a difference; I get more out of the readings now.”
Kulick was nervous about the prospect of returning to college, and felt he was coming in with less knowledge than the average Catholic.
However, according to Lajiness, the demographic of those attending the satellite campus classes is wide-ranging.
“I had someone tell me with this last satellite, ‘My age probably precludes me from doing this.’ I said, ‘The funny thing is, you are probably our typical student,’” Lajiness said. “We have a rich diversity of ages and experiences — we have a gentleman who has a doctorate in theology from a Protestant university who is becoming Catholic and wanted to see theology from a Catholic lens. I have someone who has never taken a college class before and never would have dreamed of enrolling in one of these classes.”
Lajiness encourages those with an interest to follow through if they feel the Lord nudging them to take the next step with their faith.
In addition to furthering his education, Kulick said he feels God calling him to do something with his certification.
“I have prayed quite a bit over what God wants me to do with this now. What I have heard is that He wants me to start some type of a mental health ministry at our church,” Kulick said. “I suffered from depression when I was younger, and I know back when I was fighting it, I really wish I had someone to talk to — not necessarily a therapist. In my mind, this would be just people who are struggling, sitting down and talking. I don’t think that happens enough.”
Kulick said the Holy Spirit made it possible for him to take classes, and he encourages others to take advantage of the opportunity as well.
“I am excited and glad I did it," Kulick said. "And I would hope my enthusiasm would rub off on someone else.”
Take courses through Sacred Heart Major Seminary
To learn more about course offerings through Sacred Heart Major Seminary, including at its main Detroit campus or through satellite campuses, contact the Office of Admissions at (313) 883-8696 or visit the seminary's website.
Sacred Heart Major Seminary