Lay Leadership Program

Lay Leadership Program


Lay Leadership is a two-year program designed to form the laity of the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Diocese of Joliet for ministry within the Catholic Tradition.  The program serves several constituencies, including adults involved in volunteer ministries at the parish level and those who seek quality Catholic enrichment.  Additionally, the program fulfills part of novitiate formation for several religious orders.  With the successful completion of the program, students receive a Certificate of Studies from the University of Saint Mary of the Lake.

This program is for those persons who are 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 and Benedictine University
  • 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

Adult learning style 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.  The sites include:

  • University of Saint Mary of the Lake, Mundelein
  • Saint Xavier University, Chicago
  • Benedictine University, Lisle
  • Remotely – via 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

All students begin the year with an Opening Retreat weekend in August.  In addition to the yearly retreat, participants come together for a Formation Day of prayer, input, and reflection, usually one Saturday a month.  We begin our monthly Formation Days with Mass at 8:30 am and end at 3:30 pm.

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

Formation Days include:

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

The 2020-2021 Lay Leadership calendars are available below:

Lay Leadership Year I Calendar, 2020-2021

Lay Leadership Year II Calendar, 2020-2021

Program Cost

The program cost is $1,400 per year, which includes tuition, retreat, and formation expenses. Students are responsible for the cost of course textbooks. Monthly payment plans are available.

Students may choose to pay the full amount ($1,400) independently or negotiate with their parish or sponsoring agency to share the cost.

There is an additional Technology fee of $75 per year and a one time Application fee of $50.

Information Nights

We have Virtual “Come & See” meetings from May-June, check our Facebook page for updated dates https://www.facebook.com/IPLUSML.

Getting Started

If you are a baptized and confirmed adult Catholic, all you need is a desire to grow in knowledge of the Catholic Faith.

You can find more information about the program by attending one of the “Come & See” events, by downloading the brochure, or by contacting us by email or phone (see contact information below).

LL Brochure 2020-2021

You can download and print the 2020-2021 Lay Leadership Application and Recommendation Form shown below.  There is a $50 non-refundable application fee.

Lay Leadership Application

Lay Leadership Recommendation Form

Application Process

Applications are accepted through August 1st.  Early applications are encouraged.  Once an application, application fee, recommendation form, and a photocopy of your Baptism Certificate are received, you will be contacted for a personal interview.  Any late applications will be considered based on availability.

Continuing Education Units

If you are interested in any of our courses we invite you to take them as CEU’s.  You will be considered as an Audit student and able to take the courses without the Formation Days.  The fee for this is $600 per year.  As an Audit student you will not be expected to turn in any homework or participate in any of the class discussions.  Please contact Michelle Shaffer (mshaffer@usml.edu) or Mary Gebelhoff  (mgebelhoff@usml.edu) for more details.


Click on the links below for valuable resources:

Participant Handbook-Lay Leadership Program

Documents of the Second Vatican Council

USCCB Laity, Marriage, Family, Life, and Youth

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.