Frank Fornaro ’96 Joins Episcopal Divinity School as Interim Director of Theological Field Education

By Sam Humphrey, Staff Writer

The Rev. Frank Fornaro ’96 returns to EDS this month as Interim Director of Theological Field Education—but then again, you might say he never really left.

“It’s wonderful… to come back to where I was formed as a parish priest, and re-connect with people I worked with in the past,” said Fornaro, who will succeed the legendary William Kondrath in the position. Kondrath is on sabbatical for the spring term and will retire in June 2014. Fornaro, who graduated EDS with a master of divinity degree, was previously the rector at St. Paul’s Church, Bedford from 1999 to 2010, and has also done consulting work advising vestries.

An integral part of the curriculum for MDiv candidates, field education, or ‘field ed,’ allows students to put their progressive theological education into practice in parishes affiliated with the program. Fornaro will also oversee clinical pastoral education, or CPE, an optional component of field education in which students work with patients in hospitals, hospices, and chaplaincies.

Each student approaches his or her field education differently. “I advise that every student realize what they want to learn and what they need to learn--that’s two different things. Explore different parishes through research, visit them, and make the choice that fits with their needs,” Fornaro said.

Students have fulfilled field education in places near to EDS’ campus, across Eastern Massachusetts, and as far away as Wyoming. They use the successes and challenges of field education to reflect on where and how they want to practice their ministry after graduation.

Fornaro fondly remembers his own field education, which he completed at All Saints Parish, Brookline, MA, as both challenging and rewarding. “As a student I participated in field ed practicum with Bill Kondrath, which was a combination of academics and didactics and possibilities to share our stories. It was a very positive experience for me, and probably one of the most formative experiences I had on my journey to the priesthood.”

In his new role, Fornaro will help students identify where they would like to fulfill their fieldwork requirement, and what they hope to gain from their experience. “At the beginning of their field ed assignment, the student sits down with the supervisor and creates a learning agreement, where they list the student’s goals and how they’re going to achieve those goals and the resources that they’ll need,” Fornaro explained.

“The critical piece is that on site, the student has consistent supervision, with weekly instruction with the supervisor, and then participates in a practicum here at EDS.”

Fornaro looks forward to helping students find field education that prepares them for work after graduation. “I’m attracted to congregational ministry and clergy who are thinking about parish work, because field ed is a critical part of their formation,” he said.

Fornaro’s connections with other EDS graduates, students, clergy, and local Episcopalians, give him a wide network of people who could help EDS students find field education placements.

“I’m excited to work with students in formation and help them find work that suits them and completes their education at EDS,” Fornaro said.