Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University has received a grant of $1.1 million from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish The Dominus Project, which will build upon and develop the university’s strengths as the hub of intellectual and pastoral formation for the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge.
The project is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative. The aim of the initiative is to help parents and caregivers share their faith and values with their children.
The Dominus Project will establish a foundation of intercessory prayer and from this, form catechetical leaders among the clergy and laity to lead the way in instituting family catechesis as the primary and fundamental way the faith is handed on to children. This formation of leaders will take place through the university’s theology program, diaconate formation, lay minister formation, theology and catechesis certificate and spiritual direction program.
Additionally, the Dominus Project will create and cultivate multimedia resources for family catechesis, as well as draw upon national resources, to help this transition take root in Southern Louisiana and beyond. With these leaders and resources, FranU will train, accompany, support and encourage families through parish and school programs and workshops to embrace their vocation as the primary educators of their children.
"FranU is blessed to be at the forefront of the efforts to help the diocese and the local community in faith formation. With God's grace, this grant is going to give us the ability to usher in nothing short of a cultural transformation in the way faith is handed on to children. The best research shows that children become faith-filled adults not mainly from attending Catholic schools or parish catechesis, as important as these may be, but from receiving the faith from their parents and caregivers in the life and culture of their home. The Dominus Project is going to help families become the 'domestic churches' they are called to be—places where the faith can flourish—and we're prepared to help parishes, schools, and families in this effort," stated Brian Pedraza, Director of The Dominus Project and Associate Professor of Theology at FranU.
FranU is one of 77 organizations that are receiving grants through this competitive round of the initiative. Reflecting the diversity of Christianity in the United States, the organizations are affiliated with mainline Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox Christian and Pentecostal faith communities. Many of the organizations are rooted in Black church, Hispanic and Asian Christian traditions.
“We’ve heard from many parents who are seeking to nurture the spiritual lives of their children, especially in their daily activities, and looking to churches and other faith-based organizations for support,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “These thoughtful, creative and collaborative organizations embrace the important role that families have in shaping the religious development of children and are launching programs to assist parents and caregivers with this task.”
Lilly Endowment launched the Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative in 2022 because of its interest in supporting efforts to help individuals and families from diverse Christian communities draw more fully on the wisdom of Christian practices to live out their faith fully and well, passing on a vibrant faith to a new generation.
Pedraza explained that the Latin “Dominus” is the Vulgate translation for “Lord,” and it is related to the word “domus,” which means “home.” Ancient Romans referred to the master of a household as dominus, and the word easily lent itself to speaking of the Lord God as the one who held dominion over all Creation. By naming this endeavor “The Dominus Project,” FranU’s new endeavor professes the goal that Jesus Christ would be the Lord of our homes, our families and our community.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. A principal aim of the Endowment’s religion grantmaking is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen the pastoral and lay leadership of Christian communities. The Endowment also seeks to improve public understanding of diverse religious traditions by supporting fair and accurate portrayals of the role religion plays in the United States and across the globe.