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Loyola University New Orleans Receives $600,000 Grant from Lilly Endowment

Loyola press release - December 14, 2015

Grant will fund week-long summer institute designed to immerse high school students in moral exploration, service and social justice

Loyola University New Orleans has received a grant of $600,000 to establish the Faith Acts Youth Theology Institute, a one-week residential summer institute designed to help high school students develop their Catholic faiths, explore contemporary world issues through a moral construct, and serve their communities. The four-year grant is part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative, which seeks to encourage young people to explore theological traditions, ask questions about the moral dimensions of contemporary issues and examine how their faith calls them to lives of service.

The Faith Acts Youth Theology Institute at Loyola University New Orleans will annually empower high school students to explore in-depth sacred scriptures, draw on the wisdom of religious traditions and grow in a faith that can be lived out in the Church and the world today. Participating high school students will engage in “faith acts” that address issues including: faith and the environment, art, digital culture and diversity.

The program will draw on resources and faculty from across the university and guide guide students through a unique model of theological reflection aimed at a life of strong faith and social justice. Liturgists will draw upon Loyola’s Jesuit Catholic heritage and traditions to include creative, imaginative and embodied prayer practices. Faculty from across the university will engage students through field trips, research, spiritual readings, literature and poetry.

“Through this institute, we will reach high school students at a transitional moment in their faith lives, and begin to introduce them to the riches of adult Catholic spirituality and lives of service,” said John Sebastian, vice president of Mission and Ministry at Loyola University New Orleans. “Now that these students have received the foundational sacraments of Catholic life, we hope to introduce them to new ways of thinking about their faith as young adults and help them to develop their own moral frameworks that will guide them in navigating the challenges of the world they will soon enter. Our aim is to help them mature into a faith that is actively lived, and actively considered.”

Loyola University New Orleans is one of 82 schools participating in the initiative. The schools are located in 29 states and the District of Columbia. Although some schools are independent, many reflect the religious heritage of their founding traditions. These traditions include Baptist, Brethren, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Reformed churches, as well as Roman Catholic, non-denominational, Pentecostal and historic African-American Christian communities.

“These colleges and universities are well-positioned to reach out to high school students in this way,” said Dr. Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Endowment. “They have outstanding faculty in theology and religion who know how to help young people explore the wisdom of religious traditions and apply these insights to contemporary challenges.”

The Endowment is giving $44.5 million in grants to help a select group of private four-year colleges and universities around the nation to create the institutes. The grants are part of the Endowment’s commitment to identify and cultivate a cadre of theologically minded youth who will become leaders in church and society.

An additional grant to the Forum for Theological Exploration will establish a program that will bring together leaders of the high school youth theology institutes to foster mutual learning and support.