When Kurt Keidl, O.F.S., registered for the Cor Unum (One Heart) program at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, he saw a lot of benefits.

He appreciated that the program paired perfectly with working adults who sought to deepen their faith, advance in theological knowledge, network with other lay leaders and explore ministry options.

“The Cor Unum program is a rigorous two-year master’s degree program,” said Keidl, a Secular Franciscan and former theology teacher at St. Anthony High School. “The cost is reasonable; classes are in the evening and students gather for one apostolic Saturday per month. There are also ministry internships and an annual retreat.”

Registration is open for the fall 2024 semester for students interested in pursuing the Cor Unum master of arts program. Thanks to a scholarship fund created by a local woman, several need-based scholarships are available to offset costs. Employer-based continuing education credits also can help defray the costs.

The cohort model consists of 12-14 lay students who progress together through the two-year program, fostering an intentional community of learning. Keidl was a member of the first cohort from 2017-19.

“There are 12 in our cohort, and we still keep in contact via group text and periodic in-person gatherings,” he said. “It’s amazing to see my colleagues involved in such a diversity of ministries as they seek to evangelize and heal a fractured world.”

The program includes courses in Scripture (Old and New Testament), Church history, doctrinal theology, moral theology, sacramental theology, faith and culture (Catholic Social Teaching), theory and practice of pastoral ministry, restorative leadership, pastoral counseling, oblation internship, reparation internship and the Cor Unum portfolio.

“Cor Unum is a comprehensive formation to equip lay people for ministry in the Church,” said Keidl, who said he appreciated the small class sizes. “Not only was my class size reminiscent of the 12 Apostles, but small class sizes allowed for active participation and engaging discussion.”

The colleagues are close, and Keidl respected their opinions so much that he sought their advice when he discerned leaving the education field for his new ministry as director of mission integration and pastoral care at Villa St. Francis, an assisted living community in Milwaukee sponsored by the Felician Sisters. Before that, he taught for a decade at St. Anthony.

“In addition to teaching theology, I was also the theology department chair, participated in campus ministry activities, provided liturgical music for weekly school Masses and also served as director of Catholic identity for the network,” Keidl said. “Somehow, I managed to do all that, in addition to participating in numerous apostolates and charitable organizations throughout the archdiocese and still found time to attend my Cor Unum classes, read, study and complete assignments.”

In addition to broadening his learning scope, Keidl appreciated the networking and ability to form close relationships with other lay leaders involved in Church ministry.

“We are all working to advance the mission of the Church in varied ways, each according to our vocation and our skills, and the program provided a great support system,” he said. “Additionally, in-person classes are ideal for fostering relationships among fellow cohort members and allow for active class participation, communal prayer and engaging discussions.”

As a Secular Franciscan, Keidl said he was drawn to the mission of Cor Unum: To evangelize and heal a fractured world. 

“Essentially, this is what St. Francis and we Franciscans have been doing for the last 800 years,” he said. “Franciscans are called to help rebuild the Church. Cor Unum gives us the skills and support we need to heal our wounded society and bring people to an encounter with Christ.”

Most appealing to Keidl was that the Cor Unum program is in a seminary setting. He explained it does not provide dry, empty theological knowledge in a stagnant classroom, but rather, the program contains intellectual, spiritual, liturgical, pastoral and ministerial components, which makes the seminary setting ideal.

“We are guaranteed top-notch professors, who are also responsible for the formation of our future priests,” Keidl said. “I soaked in the beauty of the campus, appreciated the quiet of the library for study and research, and participated in Mass, evening prayer and Eucharistic Adoration with seminarians and professors. The internships place us into the actual work of challenging ministry opportunities throughout the archdiocese, which is the practical application of theology. The faith is very much alive and invigorating in a seminary setting.”

Keidl said he recommends Cor Unum to others, especially those in the teaching profession. Most recently, he recommended it to Aaron Waldoch, one of his St. Anthony theology department colleagues, who is currently in the program.

To learn more about Cor Unum, visit www.shsst.edu/master-of-arts. Schedule an in-person tour or contact Michael Beard, Director, at 414-858-4655 or mbeard@shsst.edu for more information.

Kurt Keidl, O.F.S.