Help Light the Way: The Luminary Scholarship Effort
Ellen LaCroix Fillette: "Remember the development you experienced during your degree and recognize that the place you are in today isn’t where you started, and Wesley was a part of that formation."
Wesley graduate Ellen LaCroix Fillette’s (M.Div. 2016) experience studying at Wesley was both frustrating at times and profoundly eye opening. Now serving as an associate pastor in her first appointment at Centreville UMC in Centreville, Va., Ellen is grateful for her years at Wesley that were only made possible through receiving a scholarship.
“Being in a place with so many people who desperately want to change the world and are still learning the tools to do so was a tough place to be at times, but I’m so grateful for it,” Ellen said. “I became a much better listener to people from so many different perspectives.”
While at Wesley, Ellen was deeply engaged both in academic life and community life as she served as the president of Student Council for a term. Within the classroom at Wesley, she learned new ideas that enriched her previous understandings of her faith and challenged her to grow in her own spiritual formation, she said.
“One of the things I think about and am always grateful for is how my personal faith and beliefs developed at Wesley, integrating how what I learned in the classroom related to my beliefs,” Ellen said. “The beliefs that I hold onto so closely in my faith were given depth at Wesley.”
Dr. Denise Dombkowski Hopkins’ class on the Psalms was one that opened her eyes to new ways of approaching the biblical text, she said. In her role as associate pastor at Centreville UMC, Ellen incorporates much of what she learned in seminary into her pastoral care calls.
“There were so many moments in that class where Dr. Dombkowski Hopkins was able to speak into ‘this is where the rubber meets the road’ and give people voice in their anger,” Ellen said. “That has been so helpful for me in my first few months of ministry. When people ask me, ‘is it OK to be angry with God?,’ I’m able to point to the psalmists.”
Ellen also oversees the new contemporary worship service at Centreville UMC and integrates much of what she learned about worship and the arts in classes at Wesley. In fact, one of the programs that attracted Ellen to study at Wesley was the seminary’s integration of the arts with ministry.
“Wesley helped me think of worship in new and creative ways and about what constitutes corporate worship,” she said. Now she is able to utilize some of those creative elements of worship in the services at Centreville.
Like so many students and graduates, everything Ellen learned and experienced at Wesley was made possible because of her financial scholarship.
“Being in ministry is what I’m called to, so I’m sure I would have been able to pile on loans and debts, but my scholarship allowed me the financial freedom to be a better steward of the resources I’ve been given,” she said. That financial freedom motivates Ellen to give back and encourage others to do so, too.
“Remember the development you experienced during your degree and recognize that the place you are in today isn’t where you started, and Wesley was a part of that formation,” Ellen said. Giving financially allows other students to have that same opportunity, she said.