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Forming Missionary Disciple–and Being One

by Mary Kay McPartlin

As a professor at Sacred Heart living a consecrated life in The Servants of the Word ecumenical brotherhood, and through his work as a theological scholar, the center of Dr. Daniel Keating's world is Christ. All aspects of his life are connected with the joy and peace he has found in Jesus.

My Christian journey began in late high school and in my early years in college, Dr. Keating says. I wanted to know God more, know his love, and introduce people to friendship with the living God.

Participating in a Life in the Spirit seminar in which he received baptism in the Spirit was a key step in this search for God. Dr. Keating then spent several years discerning his calling while attending the University of Michigan, working towards a bachelor's degree in history. During that time and after his undergraduate work, he was searching for a means to become what he calls a missionary disciple.

I prayed to offer my life back to God. I believe my prayer was answered fully, Dr. Keating says, when he discovered the vocation of becoming a member of The Servants of the Word.

The Servants of the Word is an international lay brotherhood that is predominately Catholic but has men from several Christian traditions. While being active members of their own churches, the brothers pursue unity in Christ together.

We have very rich life together. We pool our resources for the common good, Dr. Keating explains. We are an unusual group that doesn't fit into typical categories. It's crucial for our unity together that each one of our brothers be fully active in his own church.

The brotherhood has five households in the United States, all in Michigan, and five households in other countries. Dr. Keating resides in the Lansing household along with four other community members.

As brothers we do a lot of different things, continues Dr. Keating, but one of the main things we do is evangelization and also mentoring students with the aim of forming missionary disciples.

From the reality of their own relationship with Christ, the brothers seek to bring Christ to those young people who hunger for their own personal relationships with the Lord. Dr. Keating and his fellow Servants of the Word support and inspire students in high school and college to grow in faith and spread their faith to peers. At the high school level, Dr. Keating interacts with young people who already are motivated by their faith to reach out to others. With college students, he serves as a mentor and works with students at Michigan State University as well as speaking at young adult retreats across the state and region.

The main evangelists are the students themselves, he says. I enjoy working with young people a great deal. I don't find it hard to connect with them personally. They appreciate and want a relationship with older adults.

Although working with young people strong in faith might seem an easy task, there is still a need to provide a compelling alternative to society's spiritually shallow lifestyle. The challenge is to help young people take hold of a more serious view of becoming adults, where they are not just living an adolescent and entertainment-oriented life.

Just as Dr. Keating is committed to supporting young people in their faith, his faith has grown through his relationships with his Servants of the Word brothers. They have encouraged his spiritual journey through his education and career in academia.

For Dr. Keating, this meant continuing his study of Catholic theology, which began at Sacred Heart, where he earned his master's degree in New Testament theology in 1994. Inspired by his teachers and mentors at the seminary, Dr. Keating continued his studies at Oxford University, where he earned a Master of Studies in Christian Doctrine in the Patristic Era and his Doctorate in Theology (Christian Doctrine).

He returned to Sacred Heart in 2000, beginning as an assistant professor of theology and receiving full professor status in 2015. His courses include teaching on the Church Fathers, ecumenism, and mission and evangelization. Each class is inspired by a different aspect of Dr. Keating's spiritual life.

I'm privileged to teach a variety of courses at the seminary. I continue to have the chance to speak about and write about these topics as well as teach them, Dr. Keating says with joy. I'm constantly digging wells' from the Christian tradition through my reading and study, being refreshed and tutored along the way.

For Dr. Keating, each day is spent in the presence of Christ, wanting only to know the Lord and his love, and to love him and make him loved.

The idea is to pursue this goal with all my energy, he says.

Mary Kay McPartlin

Mary Kay McPartlin is a Catholic freelance journalist who writes from Maumee, Ohio.

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Sacred Heart Major Seminary is a Christ-centered Catholic community of faith and higher learning committed to forming leaders who will proclaim the good news of Christ to the people of our time. As a leading center of the New Evangelization, Sacred Heart serves the needs of the Archdiocese of Detroit and contributes to the mission of the universal Church.