By Katherine Long
Sun associate editor
Just like the students at St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry, Sister Monica Nortz, CSJ, is about to get down to work as the spring semester gets under way.
Recently hired as the Rochester-based school’s liaison in Syracuse, Sister Monica is planning meetings throughout the diocese to promote St. Bernard’s Syracuse extension site, which opened last fall. Her goal is to increase awareness, interest and enrollment in the Syracuse program.
“I’m looking forward to getting out into the field and meeting with pastors directly,” said Sister Monica. “I want to introduce the advantages of the St. Bernard’s program in a relational, one-to-one way, so they [pastors] can encourage their parishioners to learn more about the program.”
Founded in 1893 as a seminary, today St. Bernard’s enrolls men and women, lay and religious. Students can pursue master’s degrees in divinity, theological studies and pastoral studies, or, at the main campus in Rochester, certificates in youth ministry, catechetical leadership, pastoral studies and parish business management. The school has extension sites in Albany and Syracuse and several video conferencing locations throughout Central New York.
The Syracuse extension site held its first class on the Le Moyne College campus last fall, enrolling six students in Sister Nancy Hawkins’ Orientation to Theology class. (Additional students from the diocese were also enrolled at other St. Bernard’s sites.) This semester, 11 students from the diocese are enrolled at St. Bernard’s, attending Dr. Roslyn Karaban’s Pastoral Care I class at the Le Moyne extension site, Father George Heyman’s New Testament Themes class via video conferencing from the campus in Rochester, or classes at St. Bernard’s other sites. Father James Lang, Vicar for Parishes, said the enrollment figures are beyond what was projected for the semester, a sign that students from the diocese are taking an interest.
David Hines of Fayetteville is one of those students. He took Orientation to Theology last semester and he’s back for New Testament Themes this semester. The history professor and self-described lifelong student had thought about pursuing a degree in the area of theology for some time, so for him, “St. Bernard’s landing in Syracuse was a blessing,” he said.
“These are very strong graduate-level classes. The teachers are excellent. The work has been very, very rewarding and I’m having a great time,” he continued.
Hines was also quick to point out the program’s benefits to those not necessarily seeking a degree.
“If you want to broaden your knowledge of theology as a whole, expand your horizons, continue your faith formation, this is the perfect opportunity to do that in a formal setting,” he said.
Sister Patricia Schoelles, SSJ, president of St. Bernard’s, is encouraged by the initial success of the Syracuse site. “We want to continue this momentum into the future and grow the program further,” she said.
Recognizing the need for a local contact who could meet with interested students and make presentations to parishes, Sister Patricia and Sister Kitty Hanley, CSJ, associate dean at St. Bernard’s Albany, brainstormed a short list of potential candidates for a liaison position. With more than 35 years in various education positions throughout the diocese, personal contacts developed over 60 years as a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet and great enthusiasm for the mission, Sister Monica’s name rose to the top of the list. In consultation with Father Lang, St. Bernard’s brought Sister Monica on board in November.
“Through her long-time service in the diocese, Sister Monica knows the people, the parishes and the landscape. She will be an excellent resource for anyone looking into the program,” said Sister Patricia.
Though Sister Monica has been “semi-retired” for nearly four years, she was willing to take on this new role because she believes in the importance of properly preparing individuals, especially lay men and women, for ministerial service. She also believes St. Bernard’s is the school to deliver that education.
“The St. Bernard’s program prepares lay men and women to take on ministry in their parishes, to serve the vast needs of our diocese. It gives them the strong theological background they need to serve the church as professional lay ministers. These graduates will be the critical torchbearers of the faith,” said Sister Monica.
Sister Monica will start recruiting those torchbearers soon, with an eye toward enrolling students for the summer session. Though the course schedule for summer and beyond has not yet been finalized, future classes will include courses in the Old Testament, morals, theology and church history, among others.
She will be hitting the road to bring information on St. Bernard’s to parishes, but Sister Monica encourages any interested individuals, pastors or parish representatives to get in touch with her.
“Young, retired, men, women, whoever feels they’re being called by God to learn more about their faith and be leaders in their church,” she said.
To learn more about St. Bernard’s in Syracuse, contact Sister Monica Nortz at (315) 440-6921 or visit