Loyola Institute for Ministry Students Transformed in Nigeria

Classroom in Benin City, Nigeria
Classroom in Benin City, Nigeria

View the complete issue offall 2013 LOYNO Magazine.

By Kate Trotter '14

The Loyola Institute for Ministry extension program in Benin City, Nigeria, will graduate its first class of students this January.

Loyola’s Institute for Ministry, or LIM, has been a leader in distance education for ministry since 1983. The Loyola Institute for Ministry Extension Program, or LIMEX, offers master’s degrees and certificates in pastoral studies and religious education through partnerships with local sponsoring agencies, such as dioceses, parishes, and retreat centers. The program takes place entirely on location in more than 40 places across the country and internationally.

Loyola Institute for Ministry Director Thomas Ryan, Ph.D., says LIMEX affirms the vocation of all the baptized to ministry, whether in explicitly religious settings or in the world. It also responds to the need for education where people are because com- ing to campus in New Orleans is not always feasible.

“We provide in-person, on-site education anywhere where eight to 15 students can gather,” Ryan explains. “LIMEX started in Louisiana and then expanded around the country and around the world. We even have nine students at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola.”

In January 2014, LIMEX will have its first group of graduates from Benin City, Nigeria. According to Ryan, Sister Cecelia Dimaku, M.P.S. ’07, a sister of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Benin City, received her master’s degree on campus in New Orleans and wanted the same education for her hometown.

The Koch Foundation Inc., which funds Roman Catholic evangelization efforts throughout the world, generously gave Loyola a grant to pay for tuition, books, and other necessities to get the program running in Nigeria, Ryan says.

“The Loyola program has a lot of what we need as a church in Nigeria to train the agents of evangelization,” says student Stella-Rose C. Okeke of Immaculate Conception College in Benin City. “We need formation for our laypeople, we need for- mation for our priests, and we need formation for our religious women and men.”

The church in Benin City supplies a liaison to help admin- ister the program while Immaculate Conception College provides space for the group of 10 students to meet weekly.

“It’s a distinctive program; adult students bring the wisdom of their lives and their experience to the table,” Ryan says. “They themselves become teachers.”

“The process is so fantastic,” student and lawyer Patrick Eifediyi says. “I’ve never seen this kind of learning process. It’s a small group, so you are given the opportunity to talk. It’s a new thing altogether, and I really enjoy it.”

Moreover, students integrate their knowledge of the Catholic faith with their ministry. They develop ministerial proficiency by combining in-depth study of the Christian theological tradition with an appreciative and critical understanding of the contexts in which they minister. In addition, participants develop specific competencies in a ministry focus area of their choice.

“The Loyola program calls you to be conscious of what you are doing, to reflect on what you are doing, and to apply it back into your ministry,” Dimaku says. “You receive academic formation, you receive faith formation, and you receive a spiritual formation for your own personal growth.”

The students will graduate with the Continuing Education Certificate either in pastoral studies or religious education.

Ryan uses four words to describe the LIMEX program: “Catholic,” “Ignatian,” “practical,” and “transformative.” It is Catholic in the sense of a particular way of being Christian but also in the lowercase sense, “catholic,” meaning “universal and open to truth wherever it can be found,” Ryan explains.

“Doing this course shows us who Jesus was, just the ordinary Jesus, that what Jesus was doing we also can do,” says LIMEX facilitator Celestina Ihayere, who is a lecturer at Western Delta State University in Oghara, Nigeria. “I have seen Jesus in me. You don’t need to look for Jesus in the sky. He is here.”

Key to LIMEX is its Ignatian spirituality component, which was developed by a former Loyola professor, the late Father Jerry Fagin, S.J. Focusing on the graces of the “Spiritual Exercises” of St. Ignatius Loyola, students pray their way through the program.

“Spirituality helps me as a person to sit back, to listen more than to talk,” reflects student Sister Patricia Okwuchukwu of Missionary Servants of Divine Providence of Immaculate Conception College. “So Ignatian spirituality challenges one to do more listening, and it also helps one see God in every minute, every second, every hour of one’s life; that is deep reflection.” 

LIMEX as “education where you are” is practical in the sense that “it insists that students ask: ‘So what? So what does what I have learned mean for me, for my life, for my faith, for the world, and for the church?’” Ryan says.

Finally, Ryan characterizes LIMEX as transformative because the program places “an emphasis on spirituality and on building a community of learners. It really changes people’s lives.”

“It is a very wonderful program,” Okeke says. “I have been transformed, and I have seen others transformed. It has given me a sense of belonging, and as members of this group, it has made us good friends, yes, who have come to be very close to each other and accept each other. It unifies.”

LIMEX in Benin City does not come without its challenges, Ryan says. One of the greatest has been how culturally sensitive the program has to be, making sure that the course materials and activities are attentive to and respectful of other cultures. However, due to the nature of the program and its model of the- ological reflection, students have the tools to be appreciative of other cultures and critical when these issues are not seriously addressed.

“I have come to find that Christianity finds a home in every culture, that no culture is evil or wrong,” Okeke says. “There is something good about every culture.”

For more information about the Loyola Institute for Ministry, please see www.lim.loyno.edu

 

Kate Trotter ’14 (marketing) is the publications and marketing assistant for the Office of Marketing and Communications.

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