When Msgr. Dennis Lyle returns from a sixmonth sabbatical in January, he will go home again to the grounds of University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary, where he has lived for the past 12 years.
But Lyle, who taught moral theology for six years before becoming the seminary rector in 2006, will not be focused so much on the education and formation of future priests. Instead, he will become director of the Cardinal Stritch Retreat House, which he said is one of the archdioceses best-kept secrets.
The retreat house has long been a refuge for priests looking to take a brief step back from their duties and spiritually recharge, and it also is used by religious men and women and laypeople, but Lyle said he would like it to be better known, and more available for laypeople.
“I’m thinking of Catholic professionals, like doctors and lawyers, whose faith is in integral part of their professional life,” Lyle said. “They could come for a day or two of quiet time.”
That would not only benefit the people who come, but also the retreat house itself, he said.
“Retreat houses are struggling now, because they have been used primarily by priests and religious, and there just aren’t as many of them anymore. I began to wonder if it’s time to invite laypeople to come away for a day or two.”
Lyle said he has no concrete plans for changes right now, but “I have all kinds of ideas.”
He is certain that he will keep teaching, both seminary classes, men in formation for the diaconate and people in formation for lay ministry, in both English and Spanish.
“I do like teaching,” he said. “I like the idea of being still involved in the seminary, at a much slower pace.”
Serving as rector opened his eyes to the variety of people and ministries in the archdiocese, Lyle said.
“When you’re teaching, you pretty much prepare for your classes and do your thing,” he said. “Being rector, I’ve gained an appreciation for what everyone else is doing. Everyone is working very hard.”
While he doesn’t have much experience teaching in Spanish, he does speak the language fluently after doing an immersion course in Mexico and then being assigned to predominantly Spanish-speaking parishes. With close to half of the Catholics in the archdiocese identifying themselves as Hispanic, ministry to Spanish speakers “has been an important part of my ministry.”
And moral theology — his area of academic expertise — is more important than ever, not only for priests but for lay leaders in the church.
“That’s where all the questions are right now,” Lyle said.