“As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matthew 13:23)
On a lovely late-April morning in Centennial, Colorado, the Augustine Institute celebrated its fifteenth commencement exercises, at which forty new Masters graduates received their diplomas and were sent out to “live in the tension” by our commencement speaker, Fr. James Mason.
It has never been easy to be the “good soil,” as Jesus himself warned us: while the sower slept, “his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat” (Matthew 13:25). Today’s weeds are not merely spread abroad, they are within us, in the form of attachments and shortcomings we know all too well. That is why today’s lay apostles, as Fr. Mason said, need to take their frustrations – with the world, with the Church, and with themselves – directly to Christ on the cross. To “live in the tension” is to be one who waits for the Lord and keeps vigil for his coming, knowing that what this earthly pilgrimage requires of us is conversion and great love.
The new graduates of the Augustine Institute have completed a rigorous course of studies but, crucially, have devoted themselves to becoming the good soil by consecrating those studies in prayer. Our student speaker, Sister Maris Stella Karalekas of the Sisters of Life, provided a window into that education:
I can say with confidence that my knowledge of Christ and His Bride the Church has grown in ways I could not have anticipated. Before coming to the Augustine Institute, I had already been in religious life for fourteen years, and I was familiar with some of the writings of the Church Fathers and had prayed with Scripture. But my knowledge was spotty, with perhaps a few heresies mixed in – like a puzzle with a number of missing pieces. The curriculum – with courses in history, theology, and Scripture – helped me not only to learn the truths of the faith but also to grow in my wonder at who God is and what he has done. As a religious Sister, my life is shaped by the liturgy, by praying the divine office and daily engaging the Word. This program has given me a greater depth and capacity to love God.
With her characteristic good humor, Sister Maris Stella has paid the faculty of the Augustine Institute a great compliment: what she describes is what we hope our students will gain.
Every year, the majority of our graduates come from the online program. They are men and women from around the United States and the world who seek to grow in the knowledge of God and in their ability to communicate his truth. Many of them already work for the Church, and often express their gratitude in terms similar to those used by 2022 graduate Mike Christie of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois: “I rely on the formation and learning literally on a daily basis.” Among this year’s online graduates are disciples serving in mission fields from college campuses and parishes to hospitals and – remarkably – in the Eternal City, where Laura Schlattmann and her husband will spend the jubilee year of 2025 welcoming and guiding pilgrims.
Of the twenty graduates from our on-campus program, some will return to their home states or take a further step in the academic life, while others will remain nearby and strengthen the Church in Denver, like Helen Blain, who will teach and work in admissions at John Paul the Great Catholic High School. Her parting reflection speaks to the transformation in charity that is our program’s goal: “I better understand the Church, and, therefore, I love her much more.”