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The College of St. Scholastica

Sacred Word, Sacred World, Sacred Call

Youth Theology Institute Logo - Sacred Word, Sacred World, Sacred Call.How, in a world of noise and activity, is it possible to listen for the still small voice of God speaking? What do our gifts, passions and experiences say to us about who we are? How can education and relationships help us to hear and become who we are called to be?

The Sacred Word, Sacred World, Sacred Call Youth Theology Institute is a week-long ecumenical summer program designed to encourage high school students to dive into these questions. Participants experience and form a community of care and exploration within a sustainable rhythm that includes silence and song, prayer and work and study and play. Together, we explore sacred scriptures, encounter theological traditions and draw on religious wisdom as we wrestle with contemporary moral and ethical challenges and consider who and what God is calling each of us to be. Our 2022 Institute will be held July 10-16, 2022.

Each day of the Institute includes activities based on the following five elements:

Prayer and Worship

We have structured all of our service, theology and wilderness adventures to flow out of our prayer life. As an ecumenical institute, participants experience a variety of Christian prayer practices such as Lectio Divina, praise and worship, Taizé chant, prayerful art projects and prayer walks.

Theological, Scriptural and Contemplative Reflection

Our theology sessions draw on numerous Christian theological traditions as we together explore scripture and Christian tradition while considering the implications for our lives in our time. Our theology professors provide a foundation of theological understanding, scriptural interpretation and contemplative reflection to help prepare participants to read and reflect on Biblical passages and discuss deep theological and ethical questions.

Service Learning

We know that as disciples of the Way of Jesus, we are called to serve the people and world around us. We work with our community partners to provide opportunities for focused action in response to the needs of the Duluth community. The work participants do with these organizations directly impacts people experiencing homelessness and food insecurity, women escaping violence and the well-being of the local environment.

Focused Exploration on Calling

Throughout the week, participants have the opportunity to reflect on their interests, strengths and talents. We use tools such as StrengthsFinder, our Theology Sessions and Wisdom Figure talks for self-exploration and vocational discernment. Participants are also paired with a Benedictine sister from the St. Scholastica Monastery who will accompany them in prayer and in person throughout the Institute.

Creation and Community

The stunning beauty of our surrounding geography provides a unique opportunity to listen for the call of God in the natural world around us. We spend time, hiking, swimming and exploring the streams and woods nearby and enjoy a night camping at a nearby state park. These wilderness adventures are often participants’ favorite parts of the week.

About the Institute

We are an ecumenical institute rooted in and animated by The College of St. Scholastica’s Catholic Benedictine heritage and identity. Together with participants, we seek to foster a community of care and belonging where participants can slow down and listen for how the voice of God is calling them to serve and transform the world.


Sacred Word, Sacred World, Sacred Call Youth Theology Institute is open to all current high school students. To get involved, talk to the youth minister or pastor at your church about sending a group of students. If you attend a Christian high school or other private high school, ask your campus minister or theology/religion teacher if your school has already decided to participate. If your church or high school is not participating, submit an application to begin the process to participate in this year’s Institute.

Past YTI participants are welcome and encouraged to apply to return for another year. Please contact Mark Hakes, Director at to begin the application process.

Fees and Scholarships

The total cost for this week-long experience is $200. We also have full and partial scholarships available.

Purpose and Goals

Through participation in the Institute, you will:

  • Strengthen your faith, deepen your relationship with God and discern your call to discipleship
  • Develop skills for theological and scriptural exploration in the context of contemporary societal and personal challenges
  • Reflect on your individual gifts and callings in life — to leadership, ministry and service
  • Grow in your appreciation for the interconnected web of life and your responsibilities as stewards of creation
  • Collaborate with a diverse community of learners that fosters responsibility for personal, social and ethical action

Leadership Team


Portrait of Mark Daniel HakesMark Daniel Hakes, MM, MST, Assistant Director of Campus Ministry, has worked for over nine years in youth ministry and faith formation. They bring a rich musical background and experience in Taizé prayer and Ignatian spiritual practices.

Institute Faculty and Staff

Portrait of Jessica EllingsonJessica Ellingson, MA, Director of Campus Ministry, engages college students in service-learning, leadership development, ecumenical ministry, and service and social justice activities.

Portrait of Sister Mary Josephine TorborgSister Mary Josephine Torborg, OSB, PhD, Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, has taught courses on Spirituality and Benedictine Tradition at St. Scholastica for more than thirty years. She brings a wealth of knowledge on spiritual practices and vocational discernment.

Portrait of Kevin VaughanKevin Vaughan, PhD, Director of Catholic Studies, brings expertise in the medieval practice of mystical interpretation of sacred Scripture, as well as in-depth knowledge of nature mysticism within Celtic strands of Christian spirituality.


Space is limited, apply now!

Take the first step and submit an application.