The Augustine Institute (AI) was founded in Denver ten years ago to form Catholics for the new evangelization. Denver Catholic interviewed Dr. Tim Gray, its president and co-founder.
Denver Catholic: What inspired the AI, and has the vision come to fruition so far?
Dr. Tim Gray: We opened in August 2006, inspired by Saint Pope John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization – “new in ardor, new in expressions and new in methods.” We wanted to help people effectively engage, evangelize and win the post-modern culture that believes anyone can have their own private story, but there should be no public story; that if you get rid of “meta-narratives”—worldviews that you believe are true for the world—you can get rid of all conflict and everyone will be happy and peaceful. Co-existence and tolerance become the highest values. This worldview has penetrated the culture. We must understand it in order to present the Gospel. It is a unique moment and challenge.
DC: Does Pope Francis’ evangelization style respond to this challenge?
TG: He is consciously speaking to the world and seems to be saying that, from his predecessors, we have all the teachings we need; now address the world. He is not changing Church teaching; he is changing the audience—the world. And when you speak to the world rather than to “the choir” you need to change your vocabulary and style. Speak to people who do not know Jesus Christ and the Faith; start with relationships before rules. Not that we are throwing out the rules – that would be a misunderstanding of Francis; he is simply showing us how to put relationships first – then people will be in a place where they can receive the rules.
DC: What graduate programs do you offer?
TG: A Master of Arts in Theology with a Leadership Track. We have 42 students graduating this May
and roughly 300 students in our distance education programs, joining another 286 M.A. graduates and those who have received graduate certificates. Our graduates are in over forty of the United States and in countries on every continent, including in Australia, Singapore, Ireland, Nigeria, Malaysia, Peru, and Canada.
DC: In what ways are AI graduates serving the Church?
TG: They work in various apostolates. Dave Uebbing graduated from our first class and is now Chancellor for the Archdiocese of Denver. Several graduates are teachers at the Denver Biblical School. Karlo Broussard works for Catholic Answers in San Diego. Graduates serve in schools and parishes, youth ministry and catechesis – and we love when a teacher, for example, says “this has transformed the way I teach and my effectiveness has dramatically increased.” We are also amazed by the new ways graduates go into the field. Scott Paul started Camp Wojtyla in the Colorado mountains for junior and high school students to encounter nature, beauty, and God. Yvonne Noggle helped launch Christ In The City in downtown Denver, bringing the Gospel to the poor in urban areas. Rose Mary Anderson became the principal of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School, at risk of being closed: she transformed it into a classical education school, stabilized enrollment, and it now has momentum in the right direction.
DC: What non-degree programs does AI offer people around the world?
TG: The AI has two lungs, as it were: intensive theological training for the new evangelization, and tools to equip Catholics to be effective evangelists and catechists, such as high-quality videos that teach the Faith in ways that are winsome and beautiful, new and engaging. These include Symbolon, a best-seller used in over 6,000 parishes; Reborn, a baptismal preparation series; and Beloved, a great program for marriage preparation and enrichment, crucial topics at the 2014 and 2015 Synod of Bishops on the family and in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. This high-quality, innovative video series was praised by the Pontifical Council for the Family’s Secretary General, Bishop Jean Laffitte, and Beloved recently won two prestigious Telly Awards in the category of Best Religious Videos. To enjoy a sample of the Augustine Institute’s marriage preparation and marriage enrichment series, Beloved, available on Formed: https://formed.org/Beloved/.
We recently acquired Lighthouse Catholic Media with kiosks in 7,500 parishes; last year alone it distributed 3.3 million products. The reach in over 24 countries is breath-taking. We launched Formed.org, an online video streaming service that we think is going to be a revolution in the distribution of Catholic content—a Catholic Netflix and Amazon Prime. In six months we have over 120,000 subscribers, with an average of 5,000 to 7,000 logins a day. It includes Spanish audios, videos and books. Some of our best usage is in Muslim countries that cannot receive Catholic books and CDs. We are making Catholic content easy to access in Abu Dhabi, Iran, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Korea, Hong Kong, India, South Africa, Ghana, Dominican Republic… and The Vatican. This is on the cutting edge of the new evangelization.
For more information on the Augustine Institute, visit www.augustineinstitute.com.
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Augustine Institute celebrated its 10th anniversary with full accreditation as a graduate school pursuing academic excellence for the new evangelization. Learn more here: (AI accreditation)