Monthly Archives: November 2013

Elizabeth Madeo: Reflection on Discernment

                Do we find fulfillment in careers or callings? While careers pay the bills, our calling invites us into a deeper relationship with God. However, the millennial generation seem to associate the word “calling” to “church work.”  If ministry is the fruit of discipleship, we must change the language to invite many into the fulfillment that comes with living out their calling, no matter what profession or major. We know that Jesus changes the language for parables and utilizes symbolism in order to invite and appeal to the masses.  While there is mystery in symbolism, upon reflection we see invitation.

                Jesus never said “Follow me, I will make you ministers of churches”.  In the calling forth of the disciples to be “fishers of men, ” these fishermen were busy doing their job after experiencing Jesus, but weren’t all that ready to follow him too closely.  So Jesus came to them, using the language of a fisherman, and forever changing their lives.   Fisherman don’t go catching, they go fishing because sometimes they actually catch something, but not always.  The water changes, the bait changes, methods have to change based on where we are, fishing is never that easy. 

                The same quandary still remains, how can the church “catch” the millennial generation?   We need to know the bait, be patient, not expecting them to jump in the boat, but pointing them in the right direction.  We need to be encouraging each student that they are called and chosen to live out their Baptismal call no matter what major they choose, no matter what job they get.  Do they know that they have a call to the sacred….FROM the Sacred?  God is always inviting, we are the ones that look away.  As people are searching and searching and searching outside, who is going to tell them that what they are looking for can only be found within?  God is not something to be reached for, it is something to acknowledge at our deepest core.  We must not only acknowledge that but give them the language to realize that.

                The definition of profession must be changed to mean a profession of our faith, our beliefs, a profession of who we are, not something we say at Mass. Students must profess their faith with their vocation and embrace their gifts which lead to calling as they leave behind careers, jobs and professions that have no fulfillment but pay the bills. Catholics need to change the map, refocus the lens and fish around until we find something that catches on.  Why is our mission as a Catholic university any different than our mission as church? To invite, unite, excite, and ignite the flame that is in each of us.  We know that the language is changing but the territory is also changing,   Routes are changing, roads are changing, speed limits are changing and we can’t use a map from 1975 to get from Chicago to Florida,  therefore we need to update the map that is ministry to avoid being lost.   

                We need to build bridges from experiences to beliefs, from careers to callings, from professions to professions of ourselves, from doing to being.  Then we can connect the humanity in our daily lives, to the divine that is ever present, ever in motion and ever calling us His chosen ones, inviting us, over and over, and over again into the Mystery that is God.  Let us continue to be open and discuss this conversation as we constantly update the map and language on an ever changing territory that is Church.

Teaching and Learning: Field Education and the Business of Curiosity

This semester in the IPS Foundations of Social Justice course, students began the semester by thinking about what it means to teach and learn. They were challenged to not only think of themselves as students or learners, but also as teachers who will share the knowledge they learn as they practice social justice in their communities. This week we’re featuring some of their reflections on teaching and learning at IPS.

As part of the Masters of Divinity program, students participate in a Field Education experience. This experience is comprised of a yearlong internship and weekly group gatherings in which members of the group present case studies that are then discussed by the whole group. It is within this context that I experienced education as a transformational, liberating, empowering, communal, engaging, and curiosity-filled process. It is also within this context that I experienced teachers as learners and learners as teachers. The leadership roles were fluid and the group engaged in a common purpose that moved and motivated our reflection. This common purpose was one of awareness, understanding, learning, and growing.

bell hooks (1994) in her book, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom writes so much of education as a practice and process that frees, liberates, empowers, excites/enthuses, and engages.

hooks writes of education as a communal effort when writing, “As a classroom community, our capacity to generate excitement is deeply affected by our interests in one another, in hearing one another’s voices, in recognizing one another’s presence” (p 8). In reflection, the field education group was not trying to transfer knowledge. Rather, they were walking with me, in community, to help me see and discover those things that were otherwise hidden to me. The communal activity of sharing and engaging story helped me to work through my own story, be present with it, engage it, look at its various dimensions, interact with it, allow it to speak to me and me to it, and then work towards some sort of resolution.

When preparing a case study, we were asked to look for moments in our experience of ministry that challenged us, made us uncomfortable, brought us joy, and, essentially, left us thinking, “What the heck is this all about?”

The case studies began with experience and curiosity. I had many, many cases that brought me right up against fear, uncertainty, and confusion. Often my identity as a person and as a minister was brought under the microscope and, always, I was being asked to take a critical look at myself.

Paulo Freire (1998) beautifully writes about curiosity in his book, Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage, saying,

“Curiosity as restless questioning, as movement toward the revelation of something hidden, as question verbalized or not, as a search for clarity, as moment of attention, suggestion, and vigilance, constitutes an integral part of the phenomenon of being alive. There could be no creativity without curiosity that moves us and set us patiently impatient before a world that we did not make, to add to it something of our making” (p 37-38).

This beautifully written statement was true of my experience of field education. The curiosity embedded in the very process of the work of field education, of critically examining cases in ministry, led to a sense of wonder and awe that resulted from the sharing of story and communal learning that took place. The type of questioning the took place “forced” us, in a way, to be very honest with ourselves and with one another as we, together, searched for the hidden treasures, questioned, and noticed the movements at play.

More than anything, though, this process gave my classmates and me a passion for curiosity. To be curious is to know, and to have a passion for knowing, that the world is full of things yet to be seen, grasped, explored, learned, and understood. As Freire suggests, this process is never quite done.

Thank goodness for that, too! The business of curiosity is the business of passion. It is what moves and motivates, it is what yearns, it is what makes us alive, and it is what grants us the hope that anything is possible.

Abby Gapinski is a Master of Divinity student in her third year of the program. She currently works at St. Gertrude parish as a youth minister.