One of the country’s largest private foundations has announced plans to fund a new religion-related initiative at UW-Madison.

A $98,000 grant from the Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment will launch an internship program designed to help students discern whether a religious career suits them.

The students will be placed at area churches and faith-based nonprofit organizations, helping to run social service programs and working in areas such as youth ministry.

"These are religious internships that typically are not easy to come by, especially at public universities," said the Rev. Mark Elsdon, executive director of Pres House, the Presbyterian student ministry at UW-Madison.

Pres House, which will operate the program, applied for the grant in partnership with the regional synod of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Students chosen for the internships will live at Pres House Apartments, the 51-unit campus apartment building opened by Pres House in 2007.

The internships will be unpaid, but participants will be compensated with a housing stipend of about $4,600 per school year that will cover a majority of their rent, Elsdon said.

The grant money will be distributed by Pres House over a five-year period and likely will fund a total of about 25 internships, Elsdon said. The Pres House Foundation also will help fund the initiative.

Pres House will begin identifying internship sites next month, Elsdon said.

Recruitment of students will begin next fall, with the first interns in place for the 2014-15 school year.

The program can’t begin until then in part because of how far in advance students book campus housing, Elsdon said.

The Lilly Endowment is a philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the family that owns pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co.

In a statement, the foundation said it is "especially interested in funding organizations that are exceptionally well-positioned to encourage young people to explore vocations in Christian ministry and service."

Site chosen

Blackhawk Church, the large evangelical church on Madison’s Far West Side, has signed a lease with the Verona School District to rent the gym at Savanna Oaks Middle School in Fitchburg for Sunday worship services, said the Rev. John Rosensteel, the Blackhawk pastor who is leading the church’s expansion into Fitchburg.

The first service is tentatively set for March 10.

This will be Blackhawk’s third site. In addition to its primary site at 9620 Brader Way, the church rents Majestic Theatre in Downtown Madison on Sundays.

The two sites together draw about 5,000 parishioners on an average Sunday.

A birthday

Madison Catholic Bishop Robert Morlino will turn 66 Monday. He was born Dec. 31, 1946, in Scranton, Pa.