Lay Ecclesial Ministry Formation Program

The Lay Ecclesial Ministry (LEM) Formation Program was created in response to the call of lay people committed to ecclesial service in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Archbishop Blase J. Cupich believes that Lay Ecclesial Ministry is a genuine vocation and as such, it deserves serious attention and support. His predecessors Cardinal Bernardin and Cardinal George also were committed to the vision of a community of well-formed lay ecclesial ministers. Thus, the church in Chicago commits to supporting the call of lay people to ecclesial ministry.

All callings require a commitment of time, talent and treasure. The Archdiocese of Chicago is committed to forming lay ecclesial ministers in their human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral dimensions. The Lay Ecclesial Ministry program is a manifestation of that dedication.

Presently, Lay Ecclesial Ministers in the Archdiocese of Chicago serve in roles such as Pastoral Associate, Director of Religious Education, Director of Adult Faith Formation, Director of Youth Ministry, Director of Campus Ministry, and Hospital Chaplain or Health Care Minister.

Components of the LEM vision:

  • Collaboration with the Chicago area Roman Catholic theological schools to ensure sound intellectual formation in the Catholic faith
  • Scholarship support for participants
  • Assisting participants in deepening their personal and spiritual growth within a supportive community of peers
  • Helping participants develop ministerial identity as Archdiocesan candidates and practical preparation for pastoral ministry within the local churc
  • Ensuring that participants experience a common foundational theology with priest and diaconate candidates

Program at a glance:

The Archdiocese of Chicago seeks to ensure that the future Lay Ecclesial Ministers serving its parishes and agencies possess a solid human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral foundation out of which to exercise their ministry.  In order to accomplish this goal, the LEM program is composed of a Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies degree from the University of Saint Mary of the Lake, Loyola University, or Catholic Theological Union. In addition, a three year formation cycle is undertaken at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake.


Master’s level education is required of all Lay Ecclesial Minsters in the Archdiocese of Chicago.  In order to form ministers who embrace the fullness of the Catholic faith as handed on by the Apostles, the LEM program provides scholarship support for M.A.P.S. degrees at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake, Loyola University, and Catholic Theological Union.  The Courses of Study are grounded in the Assumptions and Outcomes document created by the Theological Council at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake.


A three year formation program is required for all Lay Ecclesial Minsters in the Archdiocese of Chicago.  The overarching formation goals of the LEM program are to build community, encourage interiority, foster collaboration, appreciate diversity, develop leadership and encourage affiliation.  In addition, formation is heavily focused on integration of theological, spiritual and personal understanding into one’s pastoral practice.

All LEM participants come together for prayer, input, and reflection at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake for the following events:

  • Annual Retreats, on weekends (Friday evening through Saturday afternoon)
  • Formation Days, monthly on Saturdays, 9:00 am to 3:30 pm with Mass offered at 8:30 am.

Director-Level Certification, Renewal of Certification, and Ministerial Practicum

Please refer to the Certification web page for detailed information.

Chaplaincy Certification

Students who feel called to becoming certified as a chaplain either in the Catholic faith or on a national level can do so by following the guidelines on the following web pages:

Certification as a professional chaplain: Association of Professional Chaplains

Certification as a Catholic chaplain: National Association of Catholic Chaplains

Application Process

Please note that the $425 annual formation fee helps cover a small portion of the cost for formation events. Students are responsible for the cost of all books and other non-tuition related expenses accrued at the school of their choice.