Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary to use $1 million grant to establish program to foster a culture of encounter.

Saint John’s University has received a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc. to enable the Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary to establish a new program, “Conversatio: Creating a Culture of Encounter.”

Lilly Endowment is making the grant through it’s Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative.  The aim of the initiative is to help theological schools strengthen and sustain their capacities to prepare and support pastoral leaders for Christian congregations.  Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary is one of 84 theological schools in the U.S. and Canada that is benefiting from funding through the initiative.

Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary will partner with local rural parishes and the Mexican American Catholic College (MACC) in implementing Conversatio: Creating a Culture of Encounter.  The main goal of the Conversatio program is to prepare students to foster ongoing Christian conversion and intercultural encounter in themselves and in the local congregations where they will serve in ministry. Students will have the opportunity to gain effective pastoral skills in intercultural competence and humility, build relationships with local parishes, and to engage in evangelization.

Fr. Dale Launderville, SOT/SEM dean, notes: “We are most grateful to Lilly Endowment for making it possible for us to move forward on this important project.  We are excited to begin this challenging task of increasing our skills and those of our students in the area of intercultural relationships for the sake of advancing the Gospel and the vitality of Christian communities.” 

Donelle Poling has been a part of the development of this grant and will direct its implementation over the next five years. Poling states, “This is an exciting time for the SOT/SEM as we invite our students to engage in intercultural learning and minister in the areas of evangelization, catechesis, youth ministry, liturgy and social outreach in our local community. I am delighted and inspired to begin this important work.”


St. John’s School of Theology and Seminary, cultivating its Catholic, Benedictine tradition, excels as an influential community of theological learning where study, prayer and hospitable dialogue expand understanding and deepen vocation for the sake of building up vibrant Christian communities. Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary is located in Collegeville, MN and is a part of the Saint Cloud diocese.


Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. Although the gifts of stock remain a financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff, and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its founders’ hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. The primary aim of its grantmaking in religion, which is national in scope, focuses on strengthening the leadership and vitality of Christian congregations in the United States. The Endowment also seeks to foster public understanding about religion and lift up in fair, accurate and balanced ways the contributions that people of all faiths and religious traditions make to our greater civic wellbeing.