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William Johnston

Associate Professor

Full-Time Faculty

College of Arts and Sciences: Religious Studies


Email: William Johnston
Phone: 937-229-4085


  • Ph.D., Theology, University of Notre Dame
  • M.A., Theology (Liturgy), University of Notre Dame
  • B.A., Theology and English, University of Notre Dame


Growing up in South Bend, Ind., and educated from elementary through graduate school under the auspices of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Dr. Johnston received his B.A. in Theology and English, M.A. in Theology (Liturgy), and Ph.D. in Theology from the University of Notre Dame. 

He served in Church ministry in the Diocese of Richmond as the Minister of Religious Education at Holy Cross Parish, Lynchburg, Va.; in the Archdiocese of Baltimore as Coordinator for Adult Initiation and Catechesis, as well as Associate Director and then Director of the Archdiocesan Office of RENEW; and in the Diocese of Grand Rapids as Coordinator of Formation, and Director of the Department of Christian Life and Ministry Formation.

During this time he had varying roles in the development of three documents published by the U.S. Catholic Bishops — Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us, the National Directory for Catechesis, and Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord. He also served on the Board of Directors of NALM (the National Association for Lay Ministry), with terms as Vice-Chair and as Chair. From 2007–11 he chaired the Task Force for the Revision of the National Certification Standards, a project of the Alliance for the Certification of Lay Ecclesial Ministers (member organizations of ACLEM are NALM, NFCYM, NCCL, NPM, and FDLC – see During the late 1990s he was a member and Co-Secretary of NACARE (the National Advisory Committee on Adult Religious Education of the then-USCC Department of Education). From 2001-23, he served on the Advisory Board of the Worship Renewal Grants Program of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Calvin College (Grand Rapids, Mich.).

After 27 years in Church ministry, Dr. Johnston joined the faculty of the Department of Religious Studies in 2006, with specific responsibilities in the area of pastoral ministry. 

Faculty perspective

"Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord was published by the U.S. Catholic Bishops in 2005 to provide 'a common frame of reference for ensuring that the development of lay ecclesial ministry continues in ways that are faithful to the Church's theological and doctrinal tradition and that respond to contemporary pastoral needs and situations' (p. 6). This vision carries on the Second Vatican Council's dual agenda of ressourcement and aggiornamento, and offers it as a methodological touchstone to guide and inspire the way forward so that the growth and development of lay ecclesial ministry continues to serve and strengthen the ministerial life of the Church in the most collaborative and fruitful way possible.

I have worked with and among lay ecclesial ministers all my professional life, and am privileged to do so now in the context of the rich intellectual environment of this Catholic and Marianist university, in particular with our students who currently are or are preparing to be lay ecclesial ministers themselves. It is a delight to engage with them in the disciplined conversation that is theological study, as they pursue the academic formation that can inform and shape their vision and practice of ministry as lay persons in ways that are, as Co-Workers would have it, well grounded in tradition and pastorally responsive to the needs of people today."

Research interests

  • Lay Ecclesial Ministry
  • Liturgy and Sacraments
  • Vatican II
  • Summorum Pontificum
  • C.S. Lewis

Selected publications

"The Conversions of C.S. Lewis: Notes on Their Chronology and Character." Journal of Inklings Studies 13, no. 1 (2023): 1–27.

"Totam Exsistentialem Densitatem: An Intriguing Image of the Eucharistic Transformation of the Faithful in Benedict XVI's Sacramentum Caritatis." Questions Liturgiques / Studies in Liturgy 102 (2022): 168–190.

"Revisiting Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord: A Proposal for Theological Development." Chapter Three in Transforming Ministry Formation, edited by Edward P. Hahnenberg, Marti R. Jewell, and Theodore James Whapham, 51–71. New York/Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2021.

"Heavenly Liturgy, Daily Compassion, Social Justice: Exploring Themes from Vatican II with Help from Evelyn Underhill." Worship 93, no. 3 (July 2019): 225–242.

"Participation and Transformation: Reflection on Themes in the Eucharistic Theology of Benedict XVI's Sacramentum Caritatis." North American Academy of Liturgy Proceedings (2016): 113–130.

"Pope Benedict XVI on the Postconciliar Liturgical Reform: An Essay in Interpretation."  Antiphon 17, no. 2 (2013): 118–38.

Care for the Church and Its Liturgy: A Study of Summorum Pontificum and the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2013.

"A Marian Spirituality for Lay Ecclesial Ministers."  New Theology Review 25, no. 2 (March 2013): 70–81.

"Schools of Spirituality: Drawing from the Wealth of the Catholic Tradition."  Catechist 45, no. 2 (October 2011):46–49.

"The Call of Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord for Cultural Diversity in Lay Ecclesial Ministry Formation Programs."  In Lay Ecclesial Ministry: Pathways Toward the Future, edited by Zeni Fox, 159–79.  Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010.

"Lay Ecclesial Ministry in Theological and Ecclesial Context: A Study of Ministry Formation Documents."  In Catholic Identity and the Laity, Annual Publication of the College Theology Society, Vol. 54, edited by Tim Muldoon, 220–38.  Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2009.