Alumni of Loyola Institute for Ministry Extension look back with gratitude

Eileen Jevis | Staff writer

For 25 years, the Diocese of Syracuse collaborated with Loyola Institute for Ministry Extension (LIMEX) to offer a graduate-level certificate in practical theology. More than 150 people successfully completed the program that ran from 1990-2015. 

On Aug. 23, LIMEX alumni gathered at Christ the King Retreat House to celebrate and reflect on their years of service to the Church. The event was bittersweet for the two dozen alumni who officially met for the last time. Those present talked about the rigorous coursework they completed in theology, Scripture, the sacraments and ministry. Each of the 12 required courses consisted of 30 hours of study that connected the students through the lens of their personal faith journey, the social and cultural context of their lives, and the institutional Church. The credentials they received augmented their roles as directors of faith formation, pastoral associates, youth ministers and more. 

Geraldine Kaluzny was the diocesan director of faith formation when she learned of the program at a national catechetical conference in California. At her suggestion and with the support of Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Costello, she brought the Loyola Institute for Ministry Extension Program to the diocese. The program offered graduate-level formation to catechetical leaders and other lay ministers. 

Kaluzny said she gained comprehensive information at the Loyola booth and made strong connections. “I brought the idea back to the Religious Education Office and they were extremely enthusiastic,” she said. “One of the major goals of the office was to help educate religious-education directors and train the volunteer catechists in the tenets of our faith.” 

LIMEX alumna Bonnie Barker is the director of Faith Formation at the Church of St. Michael and St. Peter in Syracuse. She said the program gave her the confidence she needed to lead the spiritual leaders at her parish. “The knowledge I gained helps me to provide better training and preparation for my catechists, so they are better equipped to share their faith with our youth. The whole experience helped me grow in my faith and gives me the strength I need to talk about what I believe and why.” Barker said she learned to be a better listener and a better teacher to the youth in the parish. 

While the program is no longer offered, its value is ever present and enduring. “We, in the Syracuse Diocese, were very fortunate to have participated in this outstanding program offered by such a prestigious university,” said Kaluzny. “Not only were the participants able to learn the history and traditions of the Catholic Church, Scripture, and the deep meaning of ministry, they were able to study with some of the best theologians in the country,” she said. “And they did it all while building a small faith community within their groups that lasted for many years after their graduation.”

Maria Kirk has served as the director of faith formation at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Binghamton for 12 years. Prior to her service at St. Francis, she worked at St. Patrick’s for 15 years. She said the program encouraged her to continue to serve in the catechetical ministry and challenged her to help children be the best version of themselves. “I helped our youth discover how God is working through them,” she said. “It is a privilege to be part of this ministry.”

The event wrapped up with a prayer and a candle-lighting ceremony in remembrance of the 25 alumni who have died. Those present gave a brief recollection of their classmates who served the diocese with humility and grace.  

In the spirit of gratitude and appreciation to the diocese, the funds that remained in the alumni association’s treasury account were donated to the Brady Market and Christ the King Retreat House. 

“The LIMEX program was a tremendous gift to the Diocese of Syracuse,” said Kaluzny. “I often reflect on how fortunate I was to have stopped at the Loyola University booth at that conference so many years ago. It had a life-changing result for so many. The spirit works in mysterious ways.”

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