Learning to Accompany through Other-Centered Ministry

Posted by Stephanie Sonnick on Nov 12, 2019 7:00:00 AM
Stephanie Sonnick

Sonnick Echo Spotlight title

Editorial Note: This fall, we'll be featuring profiles of people who are or have been part of the Echo program in the McGrath Institute for Church Life. Echo provides students the opportunity to earn a Master's degree from Notre Dame while gaining real-world experience in parish ministry or teaching high school theology, all while receiving robust spiritual and human formation.

What made you decide to enter the Echo program?

I double-majored in theology after encountering the truth profoundly in Scripture during my freshman year of college. By the time I was a senior, the desire of my heart was to somehow bring that truth of Jesus to other people after graduation. I chose to apply to the Echo program because I saw it was the best way to do that. I saw in Echo the opportunity to be further formed in theology, while also being nurtured and formed for ministry and catechesis—the vital process of “passing on” the Gospel message. I was also attracted to the program because of its holistic nature: I knew that I would be able to utilize and highlight my strengths, but also be pushed to grow in areas where formation was needed.

What does your current ministry entail?

My current ministry at Seton Hall entails many different elements. Principally, I help craft and execute retreats, help oversee the formation and implementation of our office’s weekly events, and coordinate some of the activities of our campus missionaries. As in most ministry, a lot of my time is also taken up getting to know and journey with students on our campus.

How did the education and formation you received in Echo impact your understanding and practice of ministry?

During my second summer of Echo, I received a Scripture passage from a professor that has since become dear to my heart. This passage helps me explain how the education and formation I received in Echo impacted my understanding and practice of ministry:

“For this reason, I kneel before the Father . . . that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may . . . know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:14–19)

“For this reason, I kneel before the Father. . .”
The Echo program has taught me that, to do ministry well, one must indeed sit at the feet of the Father—that the activities of our ministry are oriented around that quiet, contemplative encounter with the Lord. My time in Echo also formed me to understand that the activities of ministry, flowing from this ‘kneeling’ before the Lord, are themselves destined to bring others ‘to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,’ so that they may be ‘filled with all the fullness of God.’ 

Echo’s emphasis on communal formation and lay catechetical mentorship helped us orient our studies in a pastoral way. We were formed to be ‘other’-centered, as God himself is. This is why I often struggle to fully explain my formation in Echo to colleagues. Echo is so much more than just a graduate program: it forms one to sit at the Lord’s feet, to understand him more deeply in our minds and our hearts, and to help that understanding take shape in a life of ‘other-centered’ ministry.

What has proven to be the most formative part of your Echo experience?

In my ministry during the Echo program, I spent most of my days working with a culture different from my native culture, speaking a second language, and working in an environment very different from that of the Notre Dame campus. This experience, while challenging at times, proved to be the most formative part of my time in Echo, for within it, I was pushed to grow and reflect upon that growth in the light of the Lord and in the light of my relationships with those I was serving. In my placement, where I sometimes felt foreign and out of place, my formation in Echo taught me to rise to challenges and to “go gently”: to journey with others, and to see the fruits of challenging moments; to receive mercy and to pass it on. These lessons have continued to form and shape my ministry far beyond the Echo program. 

Learn more about Echo

Topics: Echo, formation, campus ministry

Living and Handing on the Faith

The McGrath Institute Blog helps Catholics live and hand on their faith in Jesus Christ, especially in the family, home and parish, and cultivates and inspires everyday leaders to live out the fullness and richness of their faith in the simple, little ways that make up Church life.

Connect with us!

Subscribe Here

Most Popular

Posts by Tag

See all