The Echo Graduate Service program is a two-year program through the University of Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life. Post-undergraduate students commit to two years of full-time parish ministry in one of 16 partner dioceses, while earning a master’s in Theology, at reduced cost to the parish to which they are assigned. The Diocese of Fall River recently began such a partnership for the next two years. This article is the first of three, depicting the stories of the Echo apprentices, who recently began working within our diocese.

Hello! My name is Julia Goldschmidt and I am a first year Echo apprentice for the Diocese of Fall River. Thank you to the diocese for their warm welcome as my fellow Echo apprentices and I settle into our new home in Fall River. I am incredibly excited to be serving the diocese at St. Joseph, Guardian of the Holy Family Parish in Falmouth. As I will be working here the next two years, I would like to briefly introduce myself and explain what the Echo program is. 

 I am originally from Wayne, Penn., which is just outside of Philadelphia. I attended Catholic school from Pre-K through high school. Growing up, my favorite activities were playing the violin, singing in choir, and performing in musical theatre. I then attended the University of Notre Dame where I completed majors in the Program of Liberal Studies and Film, Television, and Theatre. I also completed a thesis in the form of a play about the female Christian mystic Julian of Norwich. When not in class, I was heavily involved in Chorale, Notre Dame’s concert choir, and in Campus Ministry, where I served in various roles such as Bible study leader and RCIA catechist. Because I loved serving in Campus Ministry, I felt called to the Echo program and began just after my graduation this past May. 

The Echo program through the McGrath Institute for Church Life is a two-year graduate service program where apprentices earn a master of arts in Theology from the University of Notre Dame while serving in a parish or school for one of Echo’s 16 partner dioceses. During the summer apprentices take graduate classes in Theology on campus at Notre Dame, and during the academic year we work full-time in a Catholic parish while taking additional classes online. All the while, we receive formation in community with others in the program as we live, learn, and pray together. 

My experience of Echo so far has been an absolute joy. Over this past summer, I completed the first 12 credits of my master of arts in Theology at Notre Dame. The four classes I took were called Ecclesiology, Liturgical Theology of the Eucharist, the Art of Catechesis, and Christian Doctrine for Catechists. My favorite class was Liturgical Theology of the Eucharist. In this class I not only learned the history of the Eucharistic celebration, but also the mystical reality of the eternal Liturgy. I also enjoyed my Ecclesiology class. Before taking this class, I never gave much thought to the history or the structure of our Church. Now I find I have a much greater appreciation for the gift that Christ gave us in the form of His bride, the Church. 

As I mentioned, my placement is at St. Joseph, Guardian of the Holy Family Parish. Since beginning my ministerial work at St. Joseph’s, I have had the opportunity to serve in several different roles. This year the parish is beginning a new Faith Formation program for grades one to eight, and I am so excited to be assisting with this wonderful, innovative project. Our program is centered around attending Mass each Sunday as a family. After Mass, students complete Mass journals, which ask questions about the Liturgical season, Scripture readings, Sacraments, and other aspects of our faith. Finally, once a month, students attend in-person teaching sessions where they learn more in depth about some aspect of the faith, and then complete activities and engage in small group discussion related to the topic. Our first few sessions of Faith Formation have been going very well and our students seem to be getting a lot out of the program. I am incredibly excited for what this year holds for the young people at the parish. Additionally, I have been able to serve as a small group mentor for the Confirmation candidates at the parish. I very much enjoy challenging these young people to go deeper in their faith, and I am looking forward to walking with these students as they prepare for this beautiful Sacrament. As I begin my second month of ministry at St. Joseph’s Parish, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve this incredible community of Catholics. I have already learned so much about how a parish runs, and how to be the best catechetical leader I can be, and I am excited to learn more. 

Thank you again for your warm welcome to the diocese. I would greatly appreciate your prayers for my ministry, and know of my prayers for our diocese!