"When I think of the word 'hope,' the first image that comes into my mind is a group of children singing together," says lay degree student Meredith Riley. "They know they have a future full of hope, and I try to encourage them to be active in the Church, share their faith and be themselves."
Meredith, of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, is a music, eighth-grade religion and middle school theater teacher at St. Roch Catholic School in Indianapolis. She also gives piano lessons during the week and does music ministry in a couple parishes on the weekends.
One of Meredith's favorite parts of being a teacher is getting to know her students and sharing her faith with them. She hopes she can inspire an appreciation for the liturgy and confidence in taking active roles in the Church.
"I love hearing the students talk about their faith," she explains. "The joy the students have, whether it is a class of kindergarteners singing, middle school students acting, or the eighth graders in the classroom, is inspiring. I try to emulate that joy in the way I teach. I try to make sure the students know what they are singing about, and show the importance of being Christ for one another."
In 2012, Meredith began working on her Master of Arts Pastoral Theology degree at Saint Meinrad to help gain a greater appreciation of faith, the liturgy and spirituality in her ministry.
"I loved teaching music, but I wanted to still grow in my faith and knowledge," she says. "I work in music ministry and catechesis, and I knew beginning a lay degree would help me become a better lay minister."
She says she has already been able to use the knowledge and skills she's learned at Saint Meinrad in her work and ministry.
"In training lay leaders to be theologically informed and spiritually active, Saint Meinrad is preparing ministers for the future of the Church. I have learned such a great deal in my studies at Saint Meinrad. It has helped me grow academically, emotionally and spiritually."
Meredith is not sure where she'll be called in a year, or even 10 years, but she says the weekends she's spent at Saint Meinrad have really inspired her ministry, and her degree will prepare her for where God calls her next.
"Spending time with others who are excited about sharing and growing in their faith has helped me carry on in my own work."