On March 12, 2019, the Reverend Nathan Reesman, priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee delivered his doctoral presentation in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Ministry.
Fr. Reesman reported on his thesis-project, the Holy Habits Challenge which is a record of a nine-month program designed at increasing Catholic identity among parishioners through intentional practices of the five precepts of the Church.
The five precepts of the Church are found in the catechism, but their history is much longer. They are first mentioned in the late first century and so are among the oldest practices in the Catholic traditions. Designed for individuals and families, the Holy Habits Challenge based its strategy on a verse in Saint Paul’s letters where the Apostle stresses the analogy between the Christian quest for sanctity to an athletic race. The goal of any parish is the “full flowering of the vocation of the laity to sanctify the world.” To do this, the laity themselves must be sanctified. Fr. Reesman developed a project which would use the traditional practices to strengthen Catholic identity. At the same time, the project used up to date methods of motivation to change the culture of the parish to support the flowering of the lay vocation to holiness.
Central to the project was the family “kit” which allowed each individual or family to engage the project without substantial time commitment. It also assured that success was not dependent on meetings or extensive input from the pastor or staff.
The “kit” contained elements for individuals attending Sunday Mass, for teachers in the school or religious education program and for parents to use in the home. The practices were scalable for beginners, intermediate or advanced. This allowed the whole parish to connect with the practices at their own level, and like a good exercise program, challenge them to move to the next level.
The Doctor of Ministry degree is an advanced credential oriented toward ministerial leadership. At the University of Saint Mary of the Lake, the program involves two years of part-time coursework and two years of research, culminating in a thesis-project which integrates theology with social science. The D.Min. “gives the graduate an advanced understanding of the nature and purpose of ministry, enhanced competencies in pastoral analysis and ministerial skills” and integration through theological reflection. (ATS accreditation standards)
Father Reesman will receive the doctorate at the Academic Convocation in May 2019.