Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Who am I?

Who am I?
I guess it is best to start with a short introduction of who I am and the abbreviated version of my journey thus far. When I was in middle school I was moved so often and so deeply my faith and minor religious experiences. My family belonged to a great parish in our small mid-west town. It was truly a community and a church family. I was active in my parish. I attended Catholic school my whole life and by the time I was in high school I knew that I wanted to serve God in ministry and religious education. I never looked back, I never questioned, and I never even toyed with the idea that I was called for something else. I just continued on full force into my college career. I chose to attend the local Catholic University choosing of course to major in Religious Studies with secondary education, minoring in Spanish and music just to add a little variety to my life. I considered a call to the religious life for a brief period of time but never really truly felt that call.
My college experience was unbelievable to say the least. I was blessed to be surrounded by teachers and students who helped me to grow in my spirituality. My formal theological education was a bit lacking but those four and half years were a time when I felt most intimately connected with God.
Unbeknownst to me, outside that college campus the world was changing. The human aspect of our Church was making decisions that would affect the faith that nourished my childhood years. The parish I had so loved and cherished was being closed. The schools I attended were suffering from lack of enrollment, yet I was blinded by all that. Until I got to the student teaching portion of my formal education.
I digress briefly for one moment to explain a theory I have on religious attitudes (it connects with my personal experience eventually). My parents are part of the generation that lived through Vatican II. They were part of the group that readily accepted these changes and the “freedom” that seemed to go along with them. They were married in the 1970’s where “chinga chonga” (lot’s of instruments) Masses were the norm. They had the theme from Romeo & Juliet played at their wedding and had a full Mass even though my dad wasn’t Catholic yet. I was born in 1980 and feel that during the time that I grew up our culture was still facing the effects of the free and easy 60’s and 70’s. Rules? The Catechism? What’s that? I thought we ditched the idea of Purgatory with Vatican II. This is the Catholic Church that I grew up in. Even my college experience was a reflection of this.
When I got to the student teaching part of my life boy was I shocked! Here I was 22 years old and I had NO IDEA that the Catholic Church was against the use of artificial contraceptives!! And that was just the beginning! How could I have gone my whole life without knowing “the rules”? If you are hearing “the rules” for the first time they sound kind of crazy (especially if the person you are student teaching with doesn’t explain them very well) and you might not always agree with them!
I made it through my semester of student teaching knowing that at the end of it there was a job waiting for me. Not a teaching job, but a job in the parish as Coordinator of Religious Education. Not only was there a job but there was an awesome priest who, I’ll admit now I totally idolized and had only dreamed about working with. He had been my high school chaplain and senior religion teacher.
I did love working with him and the other young gals that were my coworkers. But, towards the end of my first year there I was offered a teaching position at the Catholic Middle school in town. I so wanted to try my hand at teaching and gave up the parish position to teach. And I LOVED it! I loved it so much. I loved working with middle school kids. I loved being with young people all day long (the summers off didn’t hurt either). I loved the fact that we weren’t like the high school who hired nuns who wore habits and taught the Baltimore Catechism. It was hear that I learned where my theological knowledge was lacking, but when you’re teaching middle scholars you can take your time finding the answers and explaining things in simple terms. At the same time I was in a serious relationship with a wonderful man. I thought that this was the life! I could see myself working there for a lifetime, livening in my home town, and settling down and marrying the man I loved.
It was then that my hopes and dreams were crushed. After they had begged me to come and teach because they needed me so badly I got cut in the first of many teacher cuts, due to lack of enrollment and funding. I was truly devastated. My mind was made up that I loved teaching, I needed to teach, I wanted to teach, and I would teach no matter what it took! This man, who loved me so much, loved me enough to let me go and try out these new teaching wings of mine.
I moved to a town about 90 minutes from my home town. It was the first time I had lived away from my family. My first year was a challenge as I worked with high school students for the first time and found them to be more resistant to religious than middle schoolers. I missed my home desperately, especially my boyfriend. At the end of my first year, with a contract signed for the following school year my boyfriend and I got engaged. It certainly makes a difference knowing you are going “home” at the end of a school year. I enjoyed my seconded year more than my first; I was also working with middle schoolers again. I truly was sad to leave but was so joyful to know that I was spending the rest of my life with a man I was so in love with. I had no idea where I would be working. I was fairly certain that there wouldn’t be any openings at the school I had previously taught at, not to mention I didn’t want to deal with the messiness that was still happening in the Catholic School system. Then I heard about a position at the Newman Center, a new double position, two part time roles combined to create a full time employee.

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