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Seeking God

Sacred Heart Alum Never Stops Learning

by Karla Dorweiler

Michael Chamberland is humbled by theology.

“One interesting thing about theology is that the more you know about God, the more you realize you don’t know,” said Chamberland.

Even though he earned his bachelor of arts in the subject twenty years ago at Franciscan University of Steubenville (FUS), he’s never stopped striving to learn more.

In 2011, Chamberland obtained his Master of Arts in Theology with a concentration in the New Evangelization from Sacred Heart Major Seminary. Over the years, he served in youth ministry until 2016 when he became the Evangelization Coordinator at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Farmington.

Chamberland began taking a deep dive into the Catholic faith at a young age.

“I was challenged in high school by a friend who was critical of the Catholic Church,” he said. “So those years were filled with questioning and learning through my religion classes and my own research. I started to see that this all makes sense and that there’s a consistent thread behind Church teachings.”

As he contemplated his future plans at the end of high school, he was unsure about what he wanted to do long term, but he knew one thing: Theology was the only subject he wanted to study. When some family members and friends told him he wouldn’t be able to pay his bills with a theology degree, he declared a double major in biology and theology at FUS. After a year, he transitioned to a single major—theology with a focus on catechetics.

Chamberland worked in the restaurant industry when he first graduated from FUS. Church ministry stayed on his heart and mind but he couldn’t get past the “weight of the millstone” that Jesus spoke about in Luke 17:2, “It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.” Chamberland felt inadequate.

“Then I heard God speaking to me in prayer and saying, ‘You’re right, Mike. You’re not perfect and you’re not smart enough, but I am, and I want to work through you,’” said Chamberland. “And I realized I had no more excuses.”

Chamberland worked in youth ministry at parishes in the Archdiocese of Detroit (AOD) and then served as the Regional Archdiocesan Youth Ministry Coordinator for the AOD. While he was serving as the Coordinator of Life Teen Ministry in 2006 at St. Anastasia Parish in Troy, then-pastor Father John Riccardo recommended to him the masters in theology program at Sacred Heart. Chamberland liked the idea of returning to the classroom to study his favorite subject. Taking one or two classes per semester, he finished his degree in 2011.

“I loved the New Evangelization focus of my degree. It was motivating, like when you listen to music when you’re working out and the right song gets you pumped up. Going to my classes made me more eager to get out there and apply what I learned,” he said. “The idea of evangelization came through powerfully to me, and that this is why the Church exists.”

While the classes at Sacred Heart were challenging and deep, they didn’t fully quench Chamberland’s thirst for learning. And that’s OK with him.

“The further you go in theology, the more you know that you don’t know because we are seeking to learn the mysteries of God, and God is unending. God is infinite,” said Chamberland. “I think there’s a humility that’s instilled the further you go down that path. And that’s a good lesson to be learned, especially in the science of theology.”

Chamberland knew it was up to him to take what he was learning and prayerfully consider how to bring that knowledge to the people to whom he was ministering at the parish level and beyond.

In 2013, he and a friend from FUS, Mary Wilkerson, began facilitating confirmation and pre-marriage retreats and giving talks together on evenings and weekends, calling themselves BOLD Ministries. He and Wilkerson also serve as co-hosts for the podcast Eyes on Jesus with Archbishop Allen Vigneron.

In his current role as Evangelization Coordinator, Chamberland oversees a small group initiative at Our Lady of Sorrows. The Emmaus Small Group program launched in 2008 and has grown to include seventeen groups of men, women, and teenagers who meet regularly in homes to explore their faith together. Nearly 200 people participate in the program, which continues to grow.

Even though Chamberland serves in many roles—including his most important role of husband to his wife, Kellie—he would consider going back for another degree at Sacred Heart. For now, he takes life one day at a time with one objective.

“My goal is to be what the Lord wants me to be, to do what he wants me to do,” he said. “I not only want to help make disciples but to make disciple-makers. It’s not enough just to lead people. I want to help people become leaders themselves.” 

by Karla Dorweiler

Karla Dorweiler

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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.