University receives $1 million Lilly Endowment grant to support congregational vitality

Marquette received a $1 million grant through the Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Thriving Congregations Initiative to help establish “The Examen(ed) Church,” which will assist churches in drawing on Ignatian spiritual practices to identify ministry opportunities and deepen congregational vitality.

Through “The Examen(ed) Church,” congregations will learn and practice elements of Ignatian spirituality, particularly the Ignatian Examen, which will provide a framework for reflection on experience and discernment which leads to action and response.

“We are extremely appreciative of Lilly Endowment for this opportunity,” said Dr. Stephen Jenks, director of the Pastoral Leadership in a Cultural Context program. “The hopes for Thriving Congregations echo the mission and values statements expressed here at Marquette through its commitment to its Catholic, Jesuit guiding values. Congregations and pastors are facing unforeseen challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, which makes this the perfect time to support them with a creative and supportive program that helps refocus and reimagine congregational life. With the grace of God, our faith communities will thrive in a new way.”

The Examen(ed) Church will begin by shepherding approximately 20 Thrive Team congregations from a variety of Christian denominations and urban, suburban, multicultural and homogenous parishes. A larger outreach to Christian congregations will follow through workshops, seminars, and retreats, connecting them with the many resources found in the Marquette faculty and staff communities and civic and business leadership in southeast Wisconsin.

Lilly Endowment awarded more than 90 grants to strengthen Christian congregations to help people deepen their relationships with God, build strong relationships with each other and contribute to the flourishing of local communities and the world. The grants totaling nearly $93 million were made through the Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative.

“In the midst of a rapidly changing world, Christian congregations are grappling with how they can best carry forward their ministries,” said Christopher Coble, the endowment’s vice president for religion.  “These grants will help congregations assess their ministries and draw on practices in their theological traditions to address new challenges and better nurture the spiritual vitality of the people they serve.”

The Lilly Endowment has helped fund other Marquette efforts to strengthen Christian communities, including the Pastoral Leadership in Cultural Context program and the Companions in Ministry program.