About the Lay Mission Project
An apostolate devoted to igniting the Faith of lay Catholics and helping them discern and live out their unique vocations.
What is the Lay Mission Project?
We are an apostolate with the goal of animating the lay faithful of the Church by preparing them for the sake of their fundamental calling: to transform persons and society through living the Faith in all aspects of life—in the family, socially, in one’s occupation etc. This is accomplished through a formation process that involves prayer, reflection, education and the animation of localized communities of mission-driven disciples.
The Lay Mission Project is an apostolate of the Western Dominican Province. Based in the Oakland area, we’re planning to expand our formation opportunities across the entire United States so that all American lay Catholics can have the formation they need to discern and live our their specific callings as lay apostles to the world. Please contact us if you would like to help us bring the formation to your diocese.
View or download our 2023 viewbook to dive much deeper into what the Lay Mission Project formation is all about. See what sort of impact the project is making, hear what participants are saying about their experience, check out the curriculum overview, learn more about the theology of the laity and the underlying spiritual practices to the formation, and hear from our team members about the development of the project as well as its future!
FR. MICHAEL SWEENEY, OP
Fr. Michael’s chief interest is the mission of the Church to the “world” (secular society). This requires, he notes, an understanding of the relationships within the Church between the clergy, the laity and parish community in light of that mission, as well as formation of the laity for their task as apostles.
In 1997, along with with Sherry Weddell, he co-founded the Catherine of Siena Institute, whose purpose is to assist parishes to provide a formation for lay men and women. The Institute has addressed over 100,000 Catholics throughout the world.
Father Michael has developed and offered workshops in priestly formation, the theology of the laity, the theology of vocation, the theology of pastoral governance and Catholic social teaching. While he was the President of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology (DSPT) at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, he offered classes on the role of the laity in the Church, particularly in light of the documents of Vatican II and Saint John Paul II. Fr. Michael also serves as a consultant to the California Catholic Conference.
Sean is the Lay Mission Project's Operations Director and curriculum team member. Sean received his Bachelor’s of Arts at UC Berkeley, where he studied physics and was on the men’s gymnastics team. After graduation, he spent four years in various Salesian ministerial settings while discerning his vocation. In 2015 Sean completed his Master of Arts in Theology with a Salesian Studies concentration at the Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology. His Masters thesis analyzed the ecclesiology inherent to documents of the Second Vatican Council, and proposes the Scriptural notion of liturgy as an interpretive lens that elucidates the relationship between formal ritual worship and its integrated expression in everyday life. His exploration led to practical applications geared toward the animation of the faithful in the Church's mission, including the Lay Mission Project itself.
Sean is also known for his participation in the NBC show American Ninja Warrior, where he has taken on the identity of the Papal Ninja, stealthily accomplishing the mission of the One who sent him on a mission to the secular realm.
Megan is a writer and academic program developer who currently serves as Program Development Associate for the Lay Mission Project, and as Assistant Director for Programs at the Berkeley Institute.
After receiving her BA English with a minor in Italian from the University of Notre Dame (’05), Megan took a job with the World Youth Alliance (NYC), an international NGO with consultative status at the United Nations. In 2007, she relocated to Rome, Italy, where she wrote and edited for an international news correspondent. She then moved on to the United Kingdom to pursue her Masters of Studies in English at Oxford University (’08), focusing her thesis on the relationship between literature and politics. During her course of study, Megan also began working with a consultant on Middle Eastern Affairs.
Since 2007, Megan has researched and written for various officials and ministries in the Sultanate of Oman. As part of an international research team, she has contributed to three academic texts on Omani culture and diplomacy, three documentary films for international TV, a museum catalog for the Parisian exhibition Oman et la mer, a commemorative book about Oman’s new goodwill sailing ship, and a semi-fictional account of the 2010 voyage of a 9th-century reconstruction ship.
In 2014, Megan was awarded her MA Philosophy and MA Theology by the Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology (Berkeley, CA), where she focused on ethics and aesthetics in the Thomistic tradition. Currently, she is compiling and editing an anthology on feminine spirituality in the early 20th century.
This fall, Megan is a PhD candidate in Philosophy at the University of Dallas.
Russell has been the incumbent of the William K. Warren Chair of Catholic Studies at the University of Tulsa, where he was also a Research Professor in the School of Law from 1996-2020. In 2001 Bl. John Paul II appointed him to the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas, of which he became ordinarius in 2004 and, since 2006, appointed to its governing board. In 2009 Pope Benedict XVI appointed him to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences as ordinarius. He is one of only two lay academics in the world to be appointed to two pontifical academies. In 2003, to mark the centenary of the death of Pope Leo XIII, he offered a lecture to the Ministry of Culture of the Italian Government. In December 2006, he addressed the President, Prime Minister, and Speakers of the Polish Parliament, culminating a week-long celebration of human rights and the Polish constitution.
B.A from University of Notre Dame, summa cum laude
M.A in Philosophy from St. Louis University
Ph.D in Philosophy from St. Louis University
Point of Interest:
Russell insists that apart from the benefits both of contact with faith and of common sense, the modern state places its own authority in peril. His work in in law, his examination of culture and its institutions and his analysis of the contemporary social, juridical and political environment stand as witness to the decisive contribution of the philosopher who will dare to maintain a double fidelity: to the truth revealed in Christ and the truths about the person and the world accessible by reason alone, practically manifested in the ordinary relationships and initiatives of everyday life. Russell has identified the absence of a coherent anthropology as the besetting problem of our age: “There can be no efficacy in a systematic philosophy that loses sight of the vocation of the human knower to the whole of reality.”
FR. FRANCIS J. MOLONEY, SDB
In 1976, Fr. Francis returned to his native Australia and was the Professor of New Testament at Catholic Theological College, within the ecumenical Melbourne College of Divinity from 1976 till 1994. During that period he was the Visiting Professor to the Salesian Pontifical University, Rome (1978, 1982), to the Ecole Biblique, Jerusalem (1989-90), and to the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome (1993-94).
In 1992, he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities (FAHA), at that stage the first theologian to be given recognition by this body. In 1994 he was made a member of the Order of Australia (AM), a State Honor in recognition of his services to Australian religion and culture. In 1994, he was appointed the Foundation Professor of Theology at Australian Catholic University, a national Catholic University born in 1991. After an international search, he was appointed the Professor of New Testament at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, in January, 1999.
In August, 2001, Professor Moloney was elected the President of the Catholic Biblical Association of America, the first non-United States citizen ever to hold this prestigious position. The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, appointed Professor Moloney to the International Theological Commission to the Holy See in 1984, and he remained on that important advisory body to the Holy See as one of its longest-serving members for 18 years.
In April, 2002, he was appointed to the endowed Chair at the Catholic University of America: the Katherine Drexel Chair of Religious Studies. In October of 2003, he was elected Dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies. In June, 2005, he was appointed the Provincial Superior of the Salesians of Don Bosco in Australia. He returned to Australia in December, 2005, and assumed that ministry in January 2006.
He is currently a Senior Professorial Fellow at Australian Catholic University, and sought after around the world for his scriptural expertise.
University of Melbourne Theology: Salesian Pontifical University (Rome) STL: Salesian Pontifical University (Rome) SSL: Pontifical Biblical Institute (Rome) DPhil: Oxford University (UK) STD: St Mary’s University and Seminary (Baltimore, MD) D. Univ: Australian Catholic University
Having taught economics at Occidental College for fifteen years, and following upon a conversion to the Catholic faith, Mary Hirschfeld determined on a course that would daunt the most courageous hearts: resigning her tenured position, she pursued the doctorate in theology at Notre Dame. Mary is now a Professor of Economics and Theology at Villanova University. Mary has offered papers at such institutions as Notre Dame, USC, Fondazione Centesimus Annus pro Pontifice, in Milan, Italy, the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice in Rome, and Cambridge University in England.
B.A in Economics from Washington State University, Summa Cum Laude M.A and Ph.D with a focus on economic history and macroeconomics from Harvard University Ph.D. in Theology from University of Notre Dame
Point of Interest:
It is this problem and challenge that Mary Hirschfeld has determined to address: certain pathologies are increasing, with their psychological consequences; fear and desperation grip the hearts of many people, even in the so-called rich countries; the joy of life is diminishing; indecency and violence are on the rise; poverty is becoming more and more evident. People have to struggle to live and, frequently, to live in an undignified way. One cause of this situation is in our relationship with money, and our acceptance of its power over ourselves and our society. Mary has chosen the work of St. Thomas Aquinas as a starting point for engaging contemporary economic theory.
FR. JOSEPH BOENZI, SDB
Fr. Joe’s early training was in special education, catechetics and youth ministry. After a number of years directing a young adult community in Los Angeles, he earned a doctorate in spiritual theology. In 1992, he began teaching courses for the Institute of Salesian Studies, while joining the faculty at the Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology. Fr. Joe is sought after around the world for his expertise in Spirituality and in Church history in combination with his heart-felt presentation style. Since 2005, he has been a visiting professor of spiritual theology at the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome.
In his teaching, Fr. Joe brings to light how the gifts of the Holy Spirit become fruitful in the life of the individual disciple and in the coming together of the Church. His courses have highlighted the experience of the great leaders and founders of the last millennium as well as the experience and ideals of contemporary Christians committed to the Gospel in the New Ecclesial Movements. He often asks his students to see the Church as an ongoing story of ordinary people who can allow the extraordinary (charisms of the Spirit, rootedness in Christ) to transform their lives so that they become signs and bearers of God’s love to new generations and new contexts. Fr. Joe's hope is that all those who study theology will not be content to leave their studies at an academic level, but will discern ways to integrate these studies with a life of faith.
BA: Don Bosco College (NJ) Professional Diploma in Education: University of Alberta STB: Università Pontificia Salesiana (Turin) STL, STD: Università Pontificia Salesiana (Rome)
A not only is Dr. Sherri Brown a New Testament professor at Creighton University, but she is a lay woman who is passionate about scripture and excited to be a part of the Lay Mission Project's formation team. After undergraduate study at Washington and Lee University and early graduate work at Yale University Divinity School and Columbia University School of Social Work, and following a stint in the US Peace Corps and several years working in the international development field, Sherri Brown returned to graduate school at the Catholic University of America to pursue a PhD in Biblical Studies. Her research interests focus primarily on the Gospel and Letters of John and she is currently co-writing what will be her third book in that area as well as co-editing a volume on Johannine ethics. She also writes on the letters and theology of Paul and will soon embark upon a project in 2 Peter. She loves traveling and facilitating study internationally, particularly in the lands of the Bible.
“What is Truth? Jesus, Pilate and the Staging of the Dialogue of the Cross in John 18–19.” CBQ forthcoming 2015.
God’s Promise: Covenant Relationship in John. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2014.
“The Priests and Levites: Identity and Politics in the Search for a Messiah.” In Character Studies in the Fourth Gospel. Edited by Steven A. Hunt, D. Francois Tolmie, and Ruben Zimmermann. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013.
“The Greeks: Jesus' Hour and the Weight of the World.” In Character Studies in the Fourth Gospel. Edited by Steven A. Hunt, D. Francois Tolmie, and Ruben Zimmermann. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013.
“John the Baptist: Witness and Embodiment of the Prologue in the Gospel of John.” In Characters and Characterization in the Gospel of John. Edited by Christopher W. Skinner. Library of New Testament Studies. London: T&T Clark, Continuum, 2013.
“Faith, Christ, and Paul's Theology of Salvation History.” Pages 249-71 in Unity and Diversity in the Gospels and Paul: Essays in Honor of Frank J. Matera. Edited by Christopher W. Skinner and Kelly R. Iverson. Early Christianity and its Literature 7. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature Press, 2012.
Gift upon Gift: Covenant through Word in the Gospel of John. Princeton Theological Manuscript Series. Eugene: Pickwick Publications, Wipf & Stock, 2010.
“The Dialectic of Relationship: Paul and the Veiling of Women in 1 Corinthians 11:2-6.” Salesianum 67 (2005) 457-477.
FR. MICHAEL SHERWIN, OP
Fr. Michael Sherwin, OP is a professor of moral theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), and former holder of the chair in Fundamental Moral Theology at the University of Fribourg, as well as the Director of both the Saint Thomas Aquinas Institute for Theology and Culture and the Archives Pinckaers at University of Fribourg, Switzerland. In addition, he is a Member of the Advisory Board, Aquinas Institute, Blackfriars Hall, Oxford. Associate Editor, Nova et Vetera : International Theological Journal, English Edition.
FR. MICHAEL DODDS, OP
Fr. Michael is an accomplished author and professor of both philosophy and theology at the Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology. He is known for animating dialogue with respect to the integration of science and religion, and his research has become increasingly focused on the notion of chance and divine action. In science, "chance" is central to accounts of biological evolution and to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. In philosophy, it remains a challenge to describe exactly what kind of cause "chance" is - if it is a cause at all. In theology, it is a conundrum for many to see how divine providence and divine action are compatible or even possible in a world characterized by chance. In all of these areas, Aquinas's thought can be extremely helpful. He addresses the issue in his Unlocking Divine Action: Contemporary Science and Thomas Aquinas.
Member of the Core Doctoral Faculty of the GTU, American Catholic Philosophical Association, Catholic Theological Society of America, The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, The Society of Christian Philosophers, and Society for Thomistic Natural Philosophy.
Master of Sacred Theology, Dominican Order
STD, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
MA (Theology), Graduate Theological Union
MDiv, MA (Philosophy), Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology
BA, St. Albert's College
Unlocking Divine Action: Contemporary Science and Thomas Aquinas. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2012.
Philosophical Anthropology. Oakland, CA: Western Dominican Province, 2014.
The Philosophy of Nature. Oakland, CA: Western Dominican Province, 2010.
The Unchanging God of Love: Thomas Aquinas and Contemporary Theology on Divine Immutability. Second Edition. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2008.
The Seeker's Guide to Seven Life-Changing Virtues. By Bill Dodds and Michael J. Dodds, OP. Chicago: Loyola Press, 1999.
Happily Ever After Begins Here and Now: Living the Beatitudes Today. By Bill Dodds and Michael J. Dodds, OP. Chicago: Loyola Press, 1997. [Republished by Bill Dodds, lulu.com, 2010]
The Unchanging God of Love: A Study of the Teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas on Divine Immutability in View of Certain Contemporary Criticism of this Doctrine. Fribourg, Switzerland: Editions Universitaires, 1986.
Edward (Ned) Dolejsi works, particularly, to encourage an institutional response to the social problems of our day. Having served as the Executive Director of the Catholic Conference of the states of Washington and California, Ned has been a spokesman for the Church on the most significant contemporary moral issues: euthanasia, parental rights, immigration, education, health care, prison reform, the death penalty, and solicitude for the poor. Throughout his career, Ned has shown particular care for the vocations of lay Catholics, and especially for the young. Early in his career, having taught in the Catholic school system, he co-founded and directed the Channel Program of the Archdiocese of Seattle, in which he inspired and prepared young college graduates for ministry in the Church.
Ned has served as Chair of the State Advisory Committee on Institutional Religion, Chair of the Public Policy Committee of the Catholic Health Association, and as a Member of the Board for the Alliance of Catholic Health Care, the Leadership Roundtable Institute and Catholic Charities of California. He also served as President for the National Association of State Catholic Conference Directors, and has been honored by Pope John Paul II as Knight Commander of St. Gregory for his national and international service to the Church.
Michael J. Naughton is the Director of the Center for Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he also holds the Koch Chair in Catholic Studies. The Center for Catholic Studies is the oldest and largest Catholic Studies program in the world. Michael Naughton is the author and editor of nine books and over 40 articles. Previously he held the Moss Endowed Chair in Catholic Social Thought and was the Director of the John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought, also at the University of St. Thomas. Naughton has been called upon to participate in national and international symposia, inviting educators and business leaders into a conversation through which human work may be appreciated in its moral and theological dimensions.
Through his position at the University of St. Thomas, Naughton has undertaken the work of discovering the means by which students may integrate their professional training in business and administration with a profoundly theological understanding of their personal and human vocation. He has worked to design curricula in order that his students may grasp the graced possibilities for themselves and for others by integrating their faith and their work within the business world and in their profession. He strives to teach his students the profound relation between work as a practical wisdom and the contemplative leisure that must sustain it.
Ph.D. in Theology and Society from Marquette University
M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas
Dana Gioia's intensely discussed, signature essay from 1992, "Can Poetry Matter?", and the collection of criticism it introduced the following year, answered the question posed in his chosen title with reference to “the role of language in a free society" and his reluctance to let poetry, together with the other arts, become the "subculture of specialists." Dana's work as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts has translated many aspects of these hopes for the revitalization of language into a communal reality. Whether as an advocate for regional poetry or for world classics, for so-called higher or lower arts, for traditional forms of lyric or free verse, in programs for young and old, for professionals, schools, and wider communities, from programs for performing Shakespeare to ones for developing basic literacy, Dana's practical labors have aimed at the common societal "action" needed for the task of learning again to read, to listen, to speak, and to sing.
It is difficult to imagine Dana's success in criticism or cultural administration without his own poetic work. It brought to his other labors of language the dimension of connatural knowledge. Dana Gioia's poems are at once particular and universal, personal and perennial. They speak of nature and of incarnated love; they are both familial and of humankind. They remind us that the most treasured aspects of life do not grow unthreatened, that human flourishing and cultural superficiality are not strangers to one another, that without mourning there is no hope, and, recalling a nearly forgotten mode of language, that "there is no silence but when danger comes." Dana's poems remind us of our gratitude for nature and our often uneasy attention to its creator.
B.A. and a M.B.A. from Stanford University
M.A. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University.
FR. JOHN ROCHE, SDB
Fr. John has ministered as a Salesian in many capacities: from post-graduate professor, to high school teacher, chaplain and staff member of St. Mary’s boarding school in Edmonton, Alberta Canada; as the Youth Ministry Delegate for the Western Province; the first director/president of St. Francis Central Coast Catholic High School in Watsonville, CA. He's the former director of the Institute of Salesian Studies at the Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology in Berkeley, CA, and he currently serves on the provincial formation team.
Fr. John has a special place in his heart for evangelization through spiritual accompaniment. The post-graduate courses he taught were Christology and "Evangelizing a Secular Age."
STL: Salesian Pontifical University (Rome)
MA Pastoral Studies: Seattle University
MA: Pontifical College Josephinum
MDiv: Pontifical College Josephinum
BA in Philosophy: Don Bosco College (NJ)
Select Publications “Salesian Evangelization: At the Threshold of the Bicentennial of Don Bosco’s Birth (Part 1),” Journal of Salesian Studies 16, No. 1 (2015), 1-40. “Salesian Evangelization: At the Threshold of the Bicentennial of Don Bosco’s Birth (Part 2),” Journal of Salesian Studies 16, No. 2 (2015), 103-140. Regular contributor to The Catholic Voice, Diocese of Oakland. “Cultivating Hearts: A Response to Salesian Youth Ministry Today,” Journal of Salesian Studies 15 (2007): 145-166. Licentiate Thesis: The Salesian Youth Spirituality of Accompaniment: The Vision of Juan Vecchi and a New Moment; Universitá Pontificia Salesiana, Rome, 18 June 2007.