With a new director and largest ever returning class, this community-based program for young Catholics is poised to make a big impact.
The pandemic shuttered many businesses and initiatives, but others somehow thrived against the odds. One that not only survived but flourished is Canada’s St. Therese Institute of Faith and Mission, a young-adult faith formation center. With a new director and largest class ever returning for a second year, the Institute is preparing for another amazing year of fostering faith in the next generation.
As high school or college comes to an end, taking the next step into the world can be confusing. Catholics young adults might especially wonder if they are truly equipped to face the inevitable challenges to their faith. That’s where St. Therese Institute can be a godsend.
St. Therese Institute of Faith and Mission is a post-secondary Catholic school providing adult faith formation inspired by the life and teachings of St. Therese of Lisieux. Through an encounter with Jesus Christ and Christian community, lay men and women are equipped to pursue holiness and become missionary disciples in the world.
“This is the heart of the mission of St. Therese Institute: to lead young adults into a transformative experience of the love of God in Jesus Christ,” said Jim Anderson, Director of Formation at St. Therese Institute, in an interview with Aleteia.
In his 14 years as director, Anderson has seen how the Institute’s programs change lives. It leads young men and women to “committed discipleship” as they learn to “live the Little Way of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the way of childlike trust and surrender to the love and mercy of God, in the world in the situations and circumstances of their everyday lives.”
St. Therese Institute offers a variety of events and conferences for teens and adults to grow in faith, but its flagship offering is its Young Adult Faith Formation Program. Students in the program embrace a common life of prayer, study, and fellowship, all imbued with the spirituality of St. Thérèse of Lisieux and the family spirit of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
“The formation program at St. Therese is a nine-month-long experience of living in Christian community with other Catholic young adults, each committed to growing in their knowledge and love of Jesus Christ and his Church and friendship with one another,” Anderson said.
The program’s courses and, in fact, the whole way of life are geared towards equipping young Catholic Christians with the disposition of heart, the knowledge, and the practical skills of discernment and discipleship. Many vocations have come out of the program — to married life, religious life, and the priesthood. Many students return for a second and third year to deepen their faith experience, knowledge of the faith, and to help accompany their fellow students by witness and example.
Academic classes are a core part of the formation program. Students study Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Church History, Christian Moral Principles, an introduction to Philosophy, Theology of the Body, spirituality, and Christian community, among other subjects related to the Catholic faith and mature discipleship.
Students who complete the program earn a Certificate in Studies for the Lay Apostolate, and this can be applied for credit at other academic institutions.
“A growing number of colleges and universities in Canada and the United States offer transfer credit for the courses taken and the experience gained at St. Therese,” said Anderson. “And many students have chosen St. Therese as the first stage in their post-secondary education.”
Anderson has seen young adults from varied backgrounds and life experiences come to the program. Many enter immediately after high school. Before heading out into the world, they want to establish a strong foundation in faith as a young disciple of Christ.
Other young adults take a pause from their college studies or jobs. They have “a desire to ground themselves and gain focus and purpose in their lives in the light of Christ,” Anderson said. “Others, having finished their post-secondary studies and working, come to St. Therese to seek further direction in life.”
Many young men and women who come to St. Therese are seeking friends of like mind and heart who are serious about living a deeper faith. Students want to know their Catholic faith better so that they can live it themselves and better explain their beliefs to their peers in the world.
“A healing encounter with the person of Jesus is another common motivation for students to choose St. Therese,” Anderson said, “Healing from the personal emotional hurts that are so commonly suffered today in our lives and family experiences.”
Despite pandemic restrictions, St. Therese Institute continues to thrive, something we might attribute to the hand of God: Certainly our world needs nothing so much as well-formed young disciples of Christ. This summer the Institute is preparing to welcome its new and returning students.
“Last year during COVID we had such a good year, with no problems, that we now have the largest number ever of students returning for the second year program,” said John Romanowsky, newly appointed Executive Director of St. Therese Institute. “We plan to invite the public again to our Advent and Lenten retreats, and to our ‘Springtime of the Faith’ series of conferences in the spring.”
Romanowsky joined the St. Therese Institute this summer. Previously he worked at the Archdiocese of Baltimore as Executive Director of Evangelization and before that served as an Associate Director of Faith Formation in the Diocese of Rockville Centre. He earned a PhD in theology from Catholic University and was a member of the Madonna House Apostolate in Combermere, Ontario. His leadership will guide St. Therese Institute into a new and exciting phase of growth, so that even more young people can benefit from its formation programs.
As inspiring as it is to hear about St. Therese Institute from those who direct it, the true witness comes from young adults who have completed the program. These alumni testimonies reveal the program’s transformative influence. Here’s what 10 alumni have to say about St. Therese Institute’s faith formation program, in their own words.