May 14, 2024 // Bishop

ND’s Master of Divinity Graduates Sent Off to Ministry

This year’s seven lay graduates of the University of Notre Dame’s Master of Divinity program come from various stages of life and backgrounds. Some were undergrads at Notre Dame, while others studied elsewhere; some joined the program right after graduating with their bachelor’s degrees, while others had previous careers. Each, however, in his or her own way, responded to the call to serve the Church.

The Mass of Blessing and Sending for the 2024 Master of Divinity graduates (known colloquially as MDivs) was open to the program’s community: priests, seminarians, current and former students, family and friends, all gathered to send the lay graduates off to whatever ministries in which they will serve.

Each Master of Divinity graduate was presented with a Christ the Vine icon blessed by Bishop Rhoades. This icon draws from John 15:5 – “I am the vine, you are the branches” – and depicts Christ with His disciples – the first Christian ministers.

Kasia Balsbaugh
From left to right, MDiv graduates Madison Loftin, Luz Hernandez, and Mary Heaton hold their icons presented to them during Mass on Monday, May 6.

Luz Hernandez, a 2024 graduate from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, first considered the program while running a young adult group at St. Adalbert Catholic Church in South Bend. Through a combination of discernment and encouragement from those around her, Hernandez decided to apply.

It felt like a natural step for Hernandez, who has been involved in Church ministry since high school. As a young teenager in the Chicago area, Hernandez was volunteering at her parish’s Office of Religious Education when a religious sister asked her, “You want to be an assistant to the catechist?” Hernandez agreed, thinking the position would help her get experience for her dream job at the time, which was teaching. She quickly fell in love with the work, soon receiving her own certification to be a catechist – work she continued at St. Adalbert when her family moved to South Bend.

After graduating from Marian High School, Hernandez
attended Saint Mary’s College and switched her major from elementary education to religious studies. “Learning theology was a way for me to grow in my relationship with God, and that was always an interest to me,” Hernandez said.


Bishop Rhoades says a prayer of blessing over the 2024 lay Master of Divinity graduates.

The three-year Master of Divinity program that Hernandez and fellow students embarked on features classes with seminarian and lay students, and offers opportunities to learn about different types of ministry. Broadly, the program focuses on four different pillars of formation: human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral. “With human and spiritual formation, this has been one of the most impactful ways of me growing as a minister, because you get to learn and do a lot of reflection about who you are and why you are the way that you are,” Hernandez said. “It creates this wholeness for being able to accompany people.”

Ministry placement during the program is another important experience. Hernandez was able to serve in two areas she felt called towards: Hispanic ministry for the diocese and young adult ministry at the University of Notre Dame. Hernandez decided to stay local and continue working as an assistant rector in Cavanaugh Hall after her graduation from the program. “I’ve been in the role for two years now, and I’ve loved it so much,” Hernandez said. Her duties include living full time with the girls in the residence hall, organizing logistics such as dorm Mass and other events, and advising the hall’s spiritual life.

“The way it was explained to me was, this is a job, but this is also a ministry,” Hernandez said. She added: “This is a different ministry for young adults … they get to see me at my worst and my best moments. It’s a very realistic sense of being with one another and accompanying each other.”

Instrumentalists perform sacred music for the University of Notre Dame’s Master of Divinity Blessing and Sending Mass, held on Monday, May 6, at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame.

In his homily during the Blessing and Sending Mass, Bishop Rhoades recommended the example of St. Lydia from Acts, featured in the first reading for Mass. In the reading, Lydia’s heart was opened by the Lord to respond to Paul’s message. She is often called the first European convert to Christianity. Bishop Rhoades encouraged graduates to listen likewise and pray for the gifts of the Holy Spirit during their daily ministry.

As Bishop Rhoades said to the graduates, “You’ve had excellent theology classes, you’ve had great ministry experiences – however, it is the Holy Spirit who makes you equipped for ministry.”

Bishop Rhoades reminded the Master of Divinity graduates to continue to be guided by the Holy Spirit in whatever they do.

“There are times when, after Mass, when someone will say to me that such and such from my homily really touched their hearts,” Bishop Rhoades said. “This will often happen when I may not have thought my homily was very good or effective. I thus learn that it’s not about me, that the Holy Spirit is at work. So, graduates, in whatever ministry you will be engaged in, I encourage you to pray often to the Holy Spirit. Have a devotion to the Holy Spirit. He is our Advocate, our defender, our counselor, who is always not just at our side, but who dwells within us.”

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