IPL Staff Information

Dr. Linda Couri, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., D.Min.,  Director of Institute for Pastoral Leadership

Dr. Couri is an Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake.  She holds a BA in English Literature from Drake University, a Master in Social Work from U of I, Urbana and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. In 2018 she obtained her Doctor of Ministry Degree from the University of Saint Mary of the Lake.  Linda also serves as the  Director of Pastoral Formation for Mundelein Seminary.


Dr. Paul Hilliard, Ph.D., Director of the Doctor of Ministry Degree Program

Dr. Paul Hilliard, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Church History at the University of St. Mary of the Lake. He holds a B.A. in History, with concentrations in Classics and Medieval and Renaissance Studies, from the University of Dallas.  He holds an M. Phil. in Medieval History and Ph.D. in History from the University of Cambridge.   He is the Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program and the Chair of the Department of Church History.



Bob Alexander, M.A.P.S., Senior Associate Director

Bob holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology, an MS in Electrical Engineering from Northwestern University, a Master’s Certificate in Project Management from George Washington University, and an MA in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University.

Bob is directing the Lay Ecclesial Ministry Formation Program and the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies Degree Program at USML. He is also responsible for director-level certification for the Archdiocese (DREs, PAs, DAFFs, and DYMs) as well as commissioning of Lay Ecclesial Ministers.


Michelle Shaffer, M.A.P.S., ​Associate Director

Michelle holds an MA in Pastoral Studies from Catholic Theological Union, and a Post Master’s Certificate in Pastoral Theology from the University of Saint Mary of the Lake. She is a Commissioned Lay Ecclesial Minister for the Archdiocese of Chicago and in the first graduating class of the Chicago Catholic Scripture School, 4 year program.

Michelle Shaffer is directing the Lay Leadership and Catechetical Coordinator programs, and is also responsible for coordinator-level certification (CREs, CAFFs, CYMs).  Michelle is program manager for the Summer Scripture Conference held at the end of June each year.


Dr. Catherine S. Sims, M.Ed., M.Div., D.Min., Associate Director

Dr. Catherine Sims holds a Bachelor of Music Education from Alverno College in Milwaukee WI, Master of Education, Master of Divinity Degrees, and a Graduate Certificate in Spiritual Direction from Loyola University Chicago.  She earned her Doctor of Ministry from the University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein in 2017.  Catherine has served the Church of Chicago as a high school theology teacher, a parish musician, liturgist, Pastoral Associate, Director of the RCIA process and Director of Faith Formation and is a Commissioned Lay Ecclesial Minster.  Dr. Sims is coordinating the Doctor of Ministry Program, the Post-Master Certificate in Pastoral Leadership, Advanced Pastoral Leadership, the Prist Ministry Development Series, Private and Custom Retreats as well as marketing for the Institute.


Kathy Szamocki, B.M., Program Coordinator

Kathy holds a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and earned her Professional Educator License at the Music Conservatory at the Chicago College of Performing Arts.  She has 10 years of teaching experience in the public schools and teaches voice in her private studio to students grades 6-adult.

Kathy is the Program Coordinator for Lay Ecclesial Ministry, MAPS, Doctor of Ministry and the Post-Graduate Certificate in Pastoral Leadership.


Mary Gebelhoff, Administrative Assistant

Mary has an Associates Degree from Triton College.  She is a graduate of the IPL Lay Leadership and Catechetical Coordinator Programs.  Mary was the Director of Religious Education at Transfiguration Parish in Wauconda before coming to the Institute.

Mary assists in the Lay Leadership and Catechetical Coordinator programs as well as with CAFE and retreats.