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 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 second of three, depicting the stories of the Echo apprentices working within our diocese.

 “He went up the mountain and called to Him those whom He wanted, and they came to Him” (Mk 3:13).

Coming from Nashville, Tenn., I am certainly a long way from home (though not as far as Texas is from here), so in many ways, I can relate to the way the Apostles must have felt when Jesus called them to a deeper relationship with Him. They left their homes, their families, their comfortable lives, and traveled with Jesus as He taught them how to love like He does. I, too, have left my home, have left my family in Tennessee, and have taken on a new life that brings with it many new challenges. Now, I’ve gotten used to giving up some of these things due to my many adventures for the last four years in college. I’m used to not seeing my three brothers or my parents in-person very often, I’m used to not being in Tennessee, and I’m used to not feeling very comfortable as I grow in many new ways. But, this adventure is different than the one I took in my undergraduate years at Notre Dame. This time I have the joy of committing myself wholeheartedly in service to the Church!

Whenever I have heard the above passage from Mark in the past, it is always used in vocational materials for the seminary, and this makes sense since Jesus calls His 12 Apostles to follow Him in this passage. But now working for Echo, this passage has taken on a new light for me pointing to a reality I had not considered before. Jesus went up to the mountain of my heart and called me here to serve His Church. And I came to Him. For Jesus not only calls consecrated men and women to tend His flock but also lay women and men. Work in the Church is not limited to those who wear the collar but is open to all the faithful, and God’s call in my life has opened me up to this reality. I have been called, as a layperson, to lay down my own life for the sheep of the flock and it was to here in the Diocese of Fall River that I was called to lay down my life for the sheep.

The Notre Dame Echo Program strives to teach us how to serve and love the Church as lay men and women in the work of ministry. It reminds us that we, too, are called to care for the Church, both the Church Militant and the Church Suffering. We are members of the Body of Christ and we are called to care for this Body! The program trains us to be holy, catechetical leaders for the Church in many different ways. Through two intense summers of academic work, we are equipped to defend the truth and lead others to the love of God. Through our work in the diocese, we are taught how to love and serve others through the example of those whom we work with. Through our intentional faith communities, we learn how to care for our fellow Echo members as we all grow in faith, hope, and love together. Echo challenges us to grow in every aspect of our lives so that we may become Good Shepherds for the flock.

I am extremely grateful to be working here in the Diocese of Fall River. The people of St. John the Evangelist and St. Vincent de Paul in Attleboro have opened up their hearts to me in my work with this diocese. They have shown me such deep hospitality, generosity, and kindness in my transition to working in their parish, and I have so enjoyed pouring forth this love back into the parish in my own ministry. There is still much work to be done, and my stubborn heart has much to learn as it grows in love and mercy. I hope to love like you all one day. Please pray for me; I will be praying for you. 

Peace, Jamis Labadie