Academy for Vocational Leadership

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The Academy is run under the auspices of the Whitaker Institute of the Diocese of Michigan and the Coppage-Gordon School for Ministry of the Diocese of Eastern Michigan.  In 2015 the Diocese of Western Michigan joined as a partner.  The Academy provides training and formation for deacons and in some dioceses priests and total ministry team members.

The program’s format seeks to make formation as convenient as possible by condensing the class times into 11 retreat weekends per year. Participants gather on Friday evenings and attend class and participate in worship on Saturday and Sunday. Each retreat also includes time for the group to develop community.

academy 2015

2015-2016 Academy

Mentors from all three dioceses facilitate classroom discussion on lectures provided by professors from the Seminary of the Southwest (via DVD). Participants have reading and writing assignments to complete between weekends.

Every year courses are offered in scripture, spirituality, liturgy, theology, ethics, history, practical ministry, pastoral care and other topics. In addition, each year has an academic focus:
• Year 1 – Scripture
• Year 2 – History
• Year 3 – Theology and Ethics

These academic courses are open to all interested people by audit.  For more information, go to: Saturday Series.


A typical weekend will be scheduled as follows (though specific times may vary by weekend):
5:00 Check-in and Dinner
7:00 Gathering Session
9:00 Compline

8:00 Morning Prayer and Breakfast
9:00 Academic Class Session
12:00 Lunch
1:00 Academic Class Session (cont.)
3:30 Break
5:30 Dinner
7:00 Practical Class Session

8:00 Breakfast
8:45 Eucharist
10:00 Practical Class Session
12:00 Lunch
1:00 Practical Class Session
3:00 Dismissal


Val Fargo and Eric Williams with faculty from the Seminary of the Southwest

2018-19 Academy Calendar
(All regular weekends held at the Colombiere Retreat Center in Clarkston, MI)

September 7-9, 2018
October 5-7, 2018
November 2-4, 2018
November 30 – December 2, 2018
January 18-20, 2019
February 15-17, 2019
March 22-24, 2019
April 26-28, 2019
May 17-19, 2019
June 14-16, 2019

A required opening retreat will also be held in August for all new and returning students at the St. Francis Retreat Center in DeWitt.

The cost covers instruction, meals (all those listed on the schedule above), and lodging. This does not cover transportation or books.  With the August retreat, the total tuition, room and board for the year will be $3,800.

The estimated cost for books is approximately $470 and is broken out as follows:
• Year 1: $160 (plus an additional $70 for summer reading assignments)
• Year 2: $140
• Year 3: $100

For the 2017-2018 program, the opening retreat will be held at the St. Francis Retreat Center in DeWitt.  Visit their website for directions and information.  All other weekends will be held at Colombiere Retreat Center at 9075 Big Lake Rd in Clarkston. Visit their website for directions and more information.

As a participant, you will be sleeping in your own room and have use of a shared bathroom facility. Meals will be provided in the center’s refectory. Please contact the the Rev. Dr. Valerie Fargo at if you have dietary concerns.

Download Academy application
Download the WI Scholarship Application here.

Note:  Scholarship funds are limited.  We expect applicants to first ask their sponsoring congregation for assistance.

Academy for Vocational Leadership
Whitaker Payment and Cancellation Policy
August 3, 2018

Payment Policy:

Tuition for Academy for Vocational Leadership (AFVL) program is $3,800 for the 11-month program, including the opening retreat, instruction, meals provided at Colombiere, and lodging overnight each weekend.  (This does not cover transportation nor books, estimated at less than $200 each year, which are the responsibility of the student. Clinical Pastoral Education requires separate arrangements.)

The September billing, for the first half of the program year, shall be paid by the end of the calendar year.  The January billing statement for the second half of the program year shall be paid by the end of the program year.

Unpaid bills will suspend full participation in the program unless payment plans have been previously arranged. At graduation, any unpaid tuition shall prevent formal, recorded completion of the program.

Payment Plan:

For those with demonstrated financial need, payment plans can be arranged by contacting Mark Miliotto at or 313-833-4427.

Scholarship Information:

Our philosophy is that lack of funding shall not be a stumbling block for attending the program. Scholarship funds are available from our generous donors and we make these available through a sharing approach: “1/3, 1/3, 1/3.”  This means the sponsoring congregation will be asked to fund 1/3, the participant will fund 1/3 and Whitaker Scholarship Fund will fund 1/3.  Note:  Scholarship funds are limited and may be pooled for sharing between applying students.  We expect applicants to first ask their sponsoring congregation for assistance.

To apply, contact The Rev. Vicki Hesse at and complete the Scholarship Application for your program. Again, our philosophy is that lack of funding shall not be a stumbling block for attending a course.

Cancellation Policy:

Any Tuition deposits are fully refundable before the annual retreat. After the retreat, the maximum refund will be 50% of the tuition amount.


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