Lay Leadership Program

Lay Leadership Program Overview

  • Two-year program designed to form the laity for ministry within the Catholic Tradition
  • Serves students including:
    • Adults in volunteer parish ministries
    • People who seek high-quality Catholic enrichment
    • Members of religious orders seeking to fulfill part of their novitiate formation
  • Upon successful completion of the program, students receive a Certificate of Studies from the University of Saint Mary of the Lake.

This program is designed for people seeking to:

  • Grow in their faith and spirituality
  • Grow as human persons in the Divine Image
  • Engage in deep, systematic study of the Scriptures, Church History, Catholic Doctrine, the Sacraments, and the Catechism
  • Take classes with top scholars and Archdiocesan leaders, including faculty from the University of Saint Mary of the Lake
  • Develop confidence and practical skills for active participation in the life of the Church
  • Participate in a cohort, learning in a supportive community and building valuable relationships with other Catholics who are passionate about their faith

Academic Information

Classes consist of lecture, small and large group discussions as well as written integration assignments. While this is a non-graded program, students are evaluated at the end of each course as to their successful completion and comprehension of the content, both academically as well as personally and pastorally.

Classes meet weekly on Monday evenings throughout the academic year. Locations include:

  • University of Saint Mary of the Lake, Mundelein
  • St. Hyacinth Basilica, Chicago
  • Chesterton Academy, Lisle
  • Remote Learning via Microsoft Teams

Academic courses include:

  • Introduction to Divine Revelation – Year I
  • Introduction to Catholic Doctrine – Year I
  • Introduction to Christian Anthropology – Year I
  • Introduction to Church History – Year II
  • Introduction to Sacraments, Liturgy and Worship – Year II
  • Morality and Social Catholic Teaching – Year II

Formation Component

The formation process engages students in the four dimensions of ministry formation: human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral.

All students begin the year with an Orientation Day in August and an Opening Retreat weekend in September.

In addition to the annual retreat, participants join together on one Saturday each month for a Formation Day of prayer, input, and reflection. Many graduates reflect upon Formation Days with fond memories of insightful conversation, intellectual growth, and a renewed sense of belonging. These monthly Formation Days begin with Mass at 8:30 am and conclude at 3:30 pm.

Formation Activities include:

  • Opening Retreat, Year I & II
    • Formation Days
      • The Dimensions of Formation
      • Human Formation I & II
      • Spiritual Formation I & II
      • Intellectual Formation
      • Pastoral Communication Skills for Ministry
      • Pastoral Formation
      • Catholic Identity
  • Integration Reflection Day, Year II

Continuing Education Units

Students who want to take the courses as Continuing Education Units can audit the sessions and do not participate in the Formation Days.  Students are not required to complete homework assignments or participate in class discussions. The fee for this is $560 per year.  Please contact Michelle Shaffer (mshaffer@usml.edu) or Mary Gebelhoff  (mgebelhoff@usml.edu) for more details on CEU’s.

Financial Information

  • Cost: $1,650 per year, which includes tuition, retreat, and formation expenses
  • Technology fee: $75 per year
  • One-time Application fee: $75
  • Students are responsible for the cost of course textbooks.
  • Monthly payment plans are available.
  • Students may choose to pay the full amount ($1,650) independently or negotiate with their parish or sponsoring agency to share the cost.

Application Information

Applications are accepted through August. Early applications are encouraged.

The following materials are needed for a complete application:

  • Application Form
  • Recommendation Form
  • Application fee (one-time only)
  • A photocopy of your Baptism Certificate

Once these materials are received, you will be contacted for a personal interview. Late applications will be considered based on availability, yet we encourage everyone to apply.

Access the Lay Leadership Application and Recommendation Form by clicking on the buttons to the right.

Information Sessions

To learn more and ask questions about the program, we offer virtual “Come & See” meetings. Follow us on Facebook for updated dates.


For more information, please contact Michelle Shaffer, Associate Director of the Institute for Pastoral Leadership, University of Saint Mary of the Lake, at mshaffer@usml.edu or 847-970-4926.

Additional Resources

Listen to Sean's Experience with the Lay Leadership Program