It is hard for me to believe that it has been 10 years since my ILEM journey began. I applied in mid-2001 and was accepted a few months later. I will never forget that day in January 2002 when I attended the first Spiritual Formation Day at the Pastoral Center, with the other men and women who would be part of that first ILEM class. We were strangers, but shared a common bond, a desire to serve the Body of Christ. A few days later, I attended my first class at Georgian Court. I had earned an MA from Glassboro State College in 1974, but it was scary to be in the classroom again. The other 4 ILEM folks in class and I bonded immediately. What language were these people talking – Chicago Manual Footnotes, APA Footnotes – don’t you just put a number at the end of a sentence, and a citation in the footer? Where’s the card catalogue, and what do you mean "use an electronic database"? The younger kids in the class called us the 5 moms. It was a wonderful experience all in all. Sister Judy taught us well about the beauty of the Hebrew Scriptures. We learned and we grew, and we bonded as friends. More classes followed and I became more confident and familiar with learning in the age of the internet and electronic databases (nothing though really replaces a good old-fashioned book in print).
To back-track a bit, I remember when I first felt the stirrings to work for the Church. It began at the Dominican Retreat House in Elkins Park, PA. I thought then, "I’m comfortable here. I believe I could work in a place like this and help people in their spiritual journey. But how? What do I do?" One day I saw the advertisement in the Monitor for the newly-formed Institute for Lay Ecclesial Ministry, and I found my answer.
In December 2004, those of us who began the journey as strangers were commissioned as friends. During the 3 years of formation we shared classes together, shared stories of our journey during spiritual formation days, and we shared the privilege to be commissioned by Bishop John M. Smith - commissioned to serve God through serving the people of the Diocese of Trenton.
Today I don’t work in a retreat house. I serve in a parish and I am a Spiritual Director. I help people mourning the loss of a loved one by planning funeral liturgies. I help young couples in love prepare for the sacrament of marriage. And I listen to the elderly living in a nursing home. All of this was made possible by the gift of ILEM, where I was formed theologically, spiritually, and in pastoral skills.
- by Joan Bartolomei (CLEM 2004)