USML | Lay Ecclesial Ministry

Institute for Lay Formation

Lay Ecclesial Ministry

The Lay Ecclesial Ministry (LEM) program was created in response to the call of lay people to committed ecclesial service.

Archbishop Blase J. Cupich believes that Lay Ecclesial Ministry is a genuine vocation and as such it deserves serious attention and support.  His predecessors Cardinal Bernadin and Cardinal George were also committed to the vision of a community of well-formed lay ecclesial ministers.  Thus, the church in Chicago has been able to make a true commitment to supporting the call of lay persons to committed ecclesial ministry.

All callings require a commitment of time, talent and treasure.  The Archdiocese of Chicago is committed to forming lay ecclesial ministers in their human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral dimensions.  The Lay Ecclesial Ministry program is a manifestation of that commitment.

For more information about the program, visit the overview page.


The LEM Vision

Presently, Lay Ecclesial Ministers in the Archdiocese of Chicago may serve in the regulated roles of Pastoral Associate, Director of Religious Education, Health Care Minister, Director of Adult Faith Formation, and Campus Minister (University). 

Components of the LEM vision:

  • Collaboration with the Chicago area Roman Catholic theological schools to ensure sound intellectual formation in the Catholic faith
  • Scholarship support for participants
  • Assisting participants in deepening their personal and spiritual growth within a supportive community of peers
  • Helping participants develop ministerial identity as Archdiocesan candidates
  • Ensuring that participants experience a common foundational theology with priest and deacon candidates
  • Offering participants practical preparation for pastoral ministry within this local church

Program at a glance:

The Archdiocese of Chicago seeks to ensure that the future Lay Ecclesial Ministers serving its parishes and agencies possess a solid human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral foundation out of which to exercise their ministry.

In order to accomplish this goal, the LEM program is composed of a Master of Arts degree from Loyola University, Catholic Theological Union, or University of Saint Mary of the Lake. In addition, a three year formation cycle is undertaken at University of Saint Mary of the Lake.


Master’s level education is required of all Lay Ecclesial Minsters in the Archdiocese of Chicago.  In order to form ministers who embrace the fullness of the Catholic faith as handed on by the Apostles, the LEM program provides scholarship support for M.A.P.S. degrees at Loyola University, Catholic Theological Union, and University of Saint Mary of the Lake.  The Courses of Study are grounded in the Assumptions and Outcomes document created by the Theological Council at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake. 


A three year formation program is required for all Lay Ecclesial Minsters in the Archdiocese of Chicago.  The overarching formation goals of the LEM program are to build community, encourage interiority, foster collaboration, appreciate diversity, develop leadership and encourage affiliation.  In addition, formation is heavily focused on integration of theological, spiritual and personal understanding into one’s pastoral practice. 

All LEM participants come together for prayer, input, and reflection at the University of St. Mary of the Lake for the following events:

  • Retreats, at the beginning, middle  and end of the program, on weekends (Friday evening through Sunday afternoon)
  • Formation Days, monthly on Saturdays, 8:30am to 4:00pm

Getting Started

For more information contact Linda Couri, Director at 847.837.4555 or


The Archdiocese of Chicago recognizes the financial demands of pursing Master of Arts education. For this reason the Archdiocese has collaborated with participating Roman Catholic schools to create several scholarships opportunities.

Together in God’s Service (TIGS) Scholarship

All participants receive the Archdiocese of Chicago's Together in God's Service scholarship. The Archdiocese funds one-third of tuition, the partnering theological school waives one-third, and the student is responsible for the remaining one-third.

Augustus Tolton & Oscar Romero Scholarship Programs

The Augustus Tolton and Oscar Romero programs at Catholic Theological provide financial assistance to African American and Latino students, respectively, who are seeking degrees in ministry. If accepted into one of these programs, participants seeking LEM certification must complete elements of the LEM program.


To apply to the Lay Ecclesial Ministry formation program, complete and return the application form and three recommendation forms.  Deadilne: June 15, 2015.

If you are simultanesouly applying to the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies program please note the following:

  • The LEM program recommendation forms suffice for both programs.  You need not fill out the MAPS recommendation forms.  
  • You may submit the same set of essay responses for both applications.
  • Only one application fee of $50 is required.


Participants are responsible for the following fees:

  • Application fee:  $50
  • Half of total cost of psychological evaluation: $250
  • Annual formation fee:  $300

Please note that the $300 annual formation fee helps cover a small portion of the cost for formation events. 

Students are responsible for the cost of all books and other non-tuition related expenses accrued at the school of their choice.

LEM Handbook

 To view the LEM Handbook click here.

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