Entering seminary, I wanted to study a field that would practically help the people whom I would shepherd as a priest. That desire led me to study and major in the field of moral theology. As I began to study theology, the field of medical ethics seemed a practical answer to my desire.
I completed my studies at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland–in moral theology with a concentration in medical ethics. I was also involved as a newly-ordained priest in our Diocesan Health Care Committee, one of the few dioceses to have such an outreach to Catholic health care organizations. Being on the committee provided me an opportunity to utilize my area of formation from the seminary.
My involvement with Catholic health care, allowed me to to foresee that religious leadership from our Sisters in Catholic health care would not continue in the same way as before. I knew from Church teaching that the laity are charged with sanctifying the temporal affairs of the world, even in a field never before served by the laity. The formation of the laity for ministry was something the Second Vatican Council had called for with regard to the work of the Church and was an area in need of development.
The difficulty, it seemed to me, was the lack of intentional and clear formation required to mold and inspire lay-men and women leaders in Catholic health care. As a ministry of the Church, Catholic health care was something in which the Sisters were well versed. They lived the healing mission of Jesus by their very calling and vocation. The formation of the next generation of leaders needed its own clear focus on initial and ongoing formation in the healing ministry begun by Jesus through the Church.
I wanted to support the Catholic health care systems in our diocese and those around our nation. One of the ways I envisioned offering my support to the Church was to utilize my knowledge in Catholic health care in the New Evangelization program offered at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. By advancing the Gospel message of Jesus in a complicated field such as health care, I could support what I believed was the future and hope of Catholic health care.
The STL program in the New Evangelization at Sacred Heart Major Seminary allowed me to apply my background in Catholic health care and utilize the formation I received in calling the laity to advance the Gospel through new methods, new vigor, new ardor, and new applications. The STL program was a perfect opportunity for me to apply the concepts of the New Evangelization program at Sacred Heart Major Seminary to Catholic health care.
Being the first cohort in the blended program of residency and online learning provided a unique opportunity to my brother priests and me. I could tailor my focus in this field of study to greatly help the Church accomplish the renewal called for by Saint John Paul II in the area of the New Evangelization. On a lighter note, it became quite comical when the question arose from the class on what I would present, and everyone in the class could answer even before me, “It will be on Catholic health care and the New Evangelization!”
Completing the STL program in the New Evangelization has been a profoundly rewarding and helpful experience for me in advancing the Church’s ministry in Catholic health. It has helped me to see the mission of the Church from such a broader and evangelistic perspective. I look forward to utilizing this degree to deepen my understanding of this field and to immerse the Church’s vision of the New Evangelization more fully into Catholic health care.
Msgr. Mark Merdian earned a Licentiate in Sacred Theology in the New Evangelization from Sacred Heart in 2018. He serves as Episcopal Vicar for Healthcare for the Diocese of Peoria and is pastor at St. Pius X parish in Rock Island, Illinois.