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Mar 08, 2011 | Carol E. Barnwell

St. Clare College Provides Foundation for Action

Kitty Elliott is a believer. For nearly four decades, Elliott has been a member of St. Francis’ in Houston’s Memorial neighborhood. She’s been attending St. Clare College at the church for the last year under the tutelage of the Rev. Bob Wismer, associate rector and chaplain of the church’s school.


“I love it,” Elliott said. “We’ve talked about all kind of things.”


St. Clare College is a very abbreviated seminary approach to formation. Its modules are modeled after a seminary curriculum and include the study of ethics, both Old and New Testament, church history, pastoral care and even church artwork.


“The classes expose participants to the kinds of things that get talked about at seminary,” Wismer explained, “but it’s pretty casual.” Wismer brought the concept to St. Francis and averages two dozen faithful students of all ages at the Wednesday evening program.


On March 2 the class continued their discussion of pastoral care.


After Wismer’s brief lecture (“pastor” is Latin for “shepherd” and there are many references to the “shepherd” in the Bible) discussion quickly moved to what the participants’ responsibility was under the shepherd. They discussed times when church members were called upon act pastorally – when someone was sick or experiencing a crisis, shut-in or felt disconnected. They discussed the theology around pastoral care and the concept of loving our neighbors.


“How does a pastoral care visit reflect God?” Wismer asked his class. An animated conversation about “active listening” followed before participants turned to the kinds of pastoral care the church might provide. Before class was dismissed, they were planning to redevelop lay Eucharistic ministers for their congregation.


Alan Dunlop, a former vestry member, said: “It’s what we learned in Sunday school and confirmation class back when God was a little boy, but this gives us a more in depth understanding.”


Another noted the well thought out modules and the structured process of learning they provide. Today the class is an expectation for leadership in the church.


St. Clare College allows words to become actions through a deeper understanding, grounded in theology.  For more information, contact Wismer at or call him at 713.782.1270.