Fire of Desire: Full-Time Ministry and Ongoing Faith Formation - St. Bernard's

Fire of Desire: Full-Time Ministry and Ongoing Faith Formation

May 23, 2023

In 2010, a friend invited me to help with her kindergarten/grade 1 parish Faith Formation class. I responded with immense hesitation.

“I don’t know enough,” I told her. “But I suppose that I could take attendance and do some craft projects with them.”

That year, I also entered the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) to become Catholic. I came from no faith background whatsoever. So, I was a catechist and a catechumen at the same time – something that I wasn’t sure was even allowed.

After several weeks of class, my friend decided to step down as a catechist and move to a different parish. She asked whether I would take over her class. I wondered how I could possibly teach when I was just beginning to learn the basics of the Catholic faith. But saying “no” is difficult for me when I know that help is needed – so I embraced my feelings of uncertainty and plunged headfirst into the unknown. I nervously agreed to teach the parish’s kindergarteners and first graders.

And I fell in love.

An unexpected career in ministry began to bloom. I became Catholic on April 23, 2011, at my parish’s Easter Vigil and continued to serve as a catechist. Not really knowing what else to do – and being unfamiliar with curriculum materials – I decided to base each week’s lesson plan on the Sunday Gospels. I figured that I couldn’t go wrong with that strategy. And the more that I taught – and after becoming Catholic – the more that I desperately longed to learn even more about my faith.

In 2015, I became the parish’s Faith Formation director. And in 2017, I took on a second parish and served as their secondary Faith Formation director as well. Fast forward to July 2020: I excitedly took on the position of pastoral associate for Faith Formation and Youth Ministry at Christ the King in Albany.

When I heard about St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry, the institution seemed to be a natural opportunity for me to grow spiritually, both personally and professionally – and to receive even more tools and knowledge to better serve the changing needs of our families and parish community. I began working toward the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS) degree at St. Bernard’s. The school’s hybrid format (offering both online and in-person instruction) was a blessing and so convenient for my varying schedule.

While I am still in the early stage of my graduate studies, the completion of "Spiritual Formation," "RCIA and the Sacraments," as well as "Worship and Sacraments" courses in particular have provided a thorough foundation for me to accompany young people and their families as they grow stronger in their relationship with Jesus.

A favorite quotation by St. John Baptist de la Salle hangs in our Faith Formation office where I can clearly see it every day: “God has chosen you to make Him known to others.” It’s an absolute honor and privilege to be able to share in the spiritual journeys of our young people and their families as partners in ministry. The MAPS degree at St. Bernard’s provides a sound combination of theological background, as well as practical ministry formation. This ongoing education has enabled me to further explore God’s calling for my life and to study our Church’s teachings more deeply.

I’ve learned so much – and gained immensely more confidence – since those early days as a catechist and as a brand-new Catholic. This fire of excitement and desire to learn all I can about my faith continues burning more brightly and intensely each day, much like Jesus accompanying the disciples along the road to Emmaus: “Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way…” (Luke 24:32).

I prayed that someday – in at least some small way – I would be able to give back some of the incredible blessings and joys that I have received, and my academic experiences at St. Bernard’s have played a significant role in making that ongoing mission a reality.

learn more about the MA in Pastoral Studies here!

Lisanne V. Jensen serves as the Pastoral Associate for Faith Formation and Youth Ministry at Christ the King Roman Catholic Church in Albany, NY. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degrees in journalism and French from Indiana University (Bloomington, IN) and is working toward her Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS) degree from St. Bernard’s. She is also a certified Spiritual Director through the Albany Diocese’s Holy Ground program and resides in Altamont, NY.