ESTEEM in the New York Times

Leya and Cooney

A while back I posted about a program designed to empower Catholic young adults and help to prepare them for leadership roles in the Catholic Church called ESTEEM. Today, the New York Times column "On Religion" profiles a student participant and her mentor in a piece called "Helping Catholics Remain Catholic in a Setting of Nietzsche and Beer Pong." 

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From the story:

In her [Yale student Marysa Leya] four years at Yale, which culminate in commencement this weekend, she never missed a Sunday Mass and joined in weekly discussions of scripture. As a typical underachieving Yalie, she also drew cartoons for the student newspaper, captained the club tennis team, participated in a Polish cultural society and, oh by the way, earned her way into Northwestern’s medical school with a 3.78 grade point average as a biology major.

For all that, perhaps because of all that, Ms. Leya has also become part of a nationwide pilot program designed to keep actively Catholic college students just as actively Catholic after the last mortarboard has tumbled to earth. The program, Esteem, has operated from the contrarian premise that a college graduate who is suddenly reduced to being the young stranger in a new parish may well grow distant or even alienated from Catholicism.

“I can’t imagine shirking my faith,” Ms. Leya said in an interview this week at St. Thomas More, the Catholic chapel and center at Yale, “but how do you keep it important around all the chaos of med school? How do I become a meaningful member of a new parish? How do I allow the kind of experiences I’ve had here to continue?”

For Ms. Leya, like about 70 other students on six campuses, Esteem has provided intensive education in the Catholic practice, especially the role of laity, and a handpicked mentor who combines professional success with religious devotion. In Ms. Leya’s case, he is Dr. Leo M. Cooney Jr., a professor of geriatric medicine in Yale’s medical school, and, as important, a veteran of his own spiritual walkabout.

In her four years at Yale, which culminate in commencement this weekend, she never missed a Sunday Mass and joined in weekly discussions of scripture. As a typical underachieving Yalie, she also drew cartoons for the student newspaper, captained the club tennis team, participated in a Polish cultural society and, oh by the way, earned her way into Northwestern’s medical school with a 3.78 grade point average as a biology major.
For all that, perhaps because of all that, Ms. Leya has also become part of a nationwide pilot program designed to keep actively Catholic college students just as actively Catholic after the last mortarboard has tumbled to earth. The program, Esteem, has operated from the contrarian premise that a college graduate who is suddenly reduced to being the young stranger in a new parish may well grow distant or even alienated from Catholicism.
“I can’t imagine shirking my faith,” Ms. Leya said in an interview this week at St. Thomas More, the Catholic chapel and center at Yale, “but how do you keep it important around all the chaos of med school? How do I become a meaningful member of a new parish? How do I allow the kind of experiences I’ve had here to continue?”
For Ms. Leya, like about 70 other students on six campuses, Esteem has provided intensive education in the Catholic practice, especially the role of laity, and a handpicked mentor who combines professional success with religious devotion. In Ms. Leya’s case, he is Dr. Leo M. Cooney Jr., a professor of geriatric medicine in Yale’s medical school, and, as important, a veteran of his own spiritual walkabout.

Read the full article here.

Michael J. O'Loughlin

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Beth Cioffoletti
7 years ago
This article (and movement) seems to me to be based on a premise that involvement in a Catholic Church social community is the primary indicator of Catholic Faith. 

I know many gung-ho Catholics who never miss weekly Mass and attend Church discussion groups.  I know others who don't, yet who have deep faith.

Certain personalities thrive in Church social functions.  Others do not.  Without acutely perceptive leaders, Church groups easily become cliques.

Something about this whole definition of what "Church" is (as defined by the ESTEEM article) seems a little off to me.
Matthew Klein
7 years ago
Taking the time to read the article at an appropriate pace, I understand ESTEEM to an be an encouraging initiative designed to keep talented, passionate Catholics engaged in the Church.  I hope the program continues to grow!
JOHN SULLIVAN
7 years ago
I don't know what traumatized you David, but you should lighten up.
Martin Gallagher
7 years ago
From my reading of their web pages,  ESTEEM (http://www.esteemleadership.org/)  and FOCUS (http://www.focusonline.org/site/PageServer) have different, yet overlapping missions. 

ESTEEM seems to develop leadership skills whereas FOCUS seems aimed at faith development.  Is their room for both at one campus?  I have been very impressed with the fruits of FOCUS and am interested in hearing how ESTEEM compares with it.

Interestingly, ESTEEM is present at a Catholic university, Sacred Heart.  Is there a greater role for these organizations at our Catholic universities as they become more secular? 


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