Monthly Archives: February 2016

Student Feature: Amanda Thompson

Our latest student feature is about Amanda Thompson, a returning IPS student who has a lot to share about her unique journey and some good advice for those just beginning theirs. See what she has to say below.

Amanda Thompson, Director of Catholic Campus Ministry, Student Affairs, DePaul University, is pictured in a studio portrait Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. (DePaul University/Jeff Carrion)
Amanda Thompson, Director of Catholic Campus Ministry, Student Affairs, DePaul University. (DePaul University/Jeff Carrion)

I am very excited to be back at IPS! Twenty-two years ago I began my Masters of Pastoral Studies through the internship program at Loyola’s University Ministry. I graduated in 1996, got a full-time job as a campus minister and residence hall chaplain at the Lakeshore Campus and began my Masters of Divinity. I met my husband, Chuck at Loyola and we decided in 1999 to leave and start a family on the Northwest Side of the Chicago in Jefferson Park. I left not knowing if I would ever return to complete my degree.

In the meantime, Chuck and I had 3 beautiful children, Maggie (15), Hannah (14), and Leo (11). After 11 years of running a licensed daycare in my home and working in our parish, I got a job with the Archdiocese. I continued to pray that God would help me find a way to return to school. Then I applied for a scholarship and got it! My dream of finishing the Divinity degree was coming true…God was blessing me with this opportunity. So I began classes in the summer of 2014.

I am so thrilled to be back in the classroom that every class I have taken is a joy! I took my first three classes online and loved the Sakai platform. The classes were surprisingly interactive with the professors and my other classmates. Now I am in the classroom this semester and am enjoying the face to face interaction.

I was hired this August as the Director of Catholic Campus Ministry at DePaul University and I am enjoying working with the students and staff at DePaul. The students have such a passion for life and faith that gives my hope for the future of the Church. I am also the part-time youth minister at my parish, St. Mary of the Woods. Working with the teens is pure delight as well.

My favorite Bible verse has always been 2 Cor. 12:10, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” Always reminding me to trust that God is working through my weaknesses. I can only be my true self when I am being vulnerable in my relationship with God and those around me.

My favorite book that I just read over the Christmas is “The Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman. It is a beautiful story of a cranky old man who is loved back into the world by the most unlikely characters around him. It made me laugh out loud and cry real tears. I highly recommend it.

My recommendation to future students is to develop a friendship with Jesus and through that relationship don’t be afraid to put yourself into situations that you don’t feel qualified for. Trust that with time and openness, God will bring into your life people who will mentor you along the way. What might seem crazy in the beginning, usually turns out to be an amazing journey, if you stay open and pay attention!


Join the conversation by following @BrianSchmisek on Twitter and @LoyolaIPS on Instagram! Also, network with the Loyola Chicago IPS community on LinkedIn.

Senator Dick Durbin Spoke on Undocumented Students

This past December, Senator Dick Durbin came to Loyola to speak about undocumented students, the challenges and opportunities they face, and how his own work for comprehensive immigration reform has been informed by his Catholic faith and his experience as a first-generation American.

Senator Dick Durbin addressing the Loyola community
Senator Dick Durbin addressing the Loyola community

IPS Professor Dr. Michael Canaris was one of many IPS community members in attendance and he had this reflection to share about the event and the Senator’s speech:

“The Scriptures and Christian teaching are unambiguous in their call to stand in solidarity with the marginalized, the disadvantaged, and the exile, and to respect the dignity of every human person. Senator Durbin’s work on behalf of migrants and refugees throughout his career has echoed this mandate and, when traced through sponsorship of the DREAM Act for instance, helped in many ways to inspire a re-appreciation of Loyola’s commitment to this underserved population across disciplines. It’s an issue that reflects our values as a university rooted in Catholic and Jesuit traditions, and has historical antecedents going back to the school’s founding and in fact to the original Company of Ignatius.”

Senator Durbin’s talk hit home for many Loyola students who were in the audience who are immigrants and/or a part of the Senator’s DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act. These students, affectionately called Dreamers, continue to grow in number and attend colleges across the country, with the largest population right here at Loyola Chicago.

The event titled, “Undocumented Students: Perspectives from a US Senator informed by the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching and his own family’s story,” was live tweeted through the Loyola IPS Twitter account and spurred conversation using the hashtags: #SenDurbinSpeaks and #SenDurbinVisitsIPS. You can see some of the conversation below.

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Join the conversation by following @BrianSchmisek on Twitter and @LoyolaIPS on Instagram! Also, network with the Loyola Chicago IPS community on LinkedIn.

IPS Student Ventured the Camino de Santiago

IPS graduate student Sarah Layli Sahrapour recently completed the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage also know as “The Way of St. James” that has many routes across Europe.

“The Camino is a pilgrimage, which must be done on foot, to the city of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. For my pilgrimage, I started in the city of Porto on the coast of Portugal and walked 250 km to Santiago in 2 1/2 weeks,” said Layli.

Layli is in the Pastoral Counseling program and is expected to graduate in May 2017. Eventually, she would like to be a therapist in a group practice. Read our Q&A with her below to learn more about her adventure and the lessons she learned.

What brought you to Portugal and Spain?
Well, of course I wanted to end up in Santiago, in order to complete the pilgrimage. But when you do the Camino you have many choices in terms of where you start from and what route you take to get there. I chose Portugal first of all because of the time of year. I was going to be walking from mid-November to December, and so crossing the Pyrenees as they do in the more common French route didn’t seem wise. In order to walk in warmer, safer weather, I chose Portugal, which is to the South of Santiago rather than to the East or North. As it turned out, the weather was even better than I could have hoped for, with an average temperature of 65 degrees. It was also gorgeous because I spent the first week and a half walking on the coast right next to the Atlantic Ocean.

What was your motivation for doing this?
Ever since I first heard about it, the Camino has been in the back of my mind. So I was planning on doing it at some point. I think the thing that made the difference was that I felt ready for it, ready for the experience of being on the Camino and ready to make the most of it spiritually.

What was your favorite part of the journey?
I really liked the community I found along the way. November is off-season, so there wasn’t as many people walking as there is in the summer, but there was about ten of us traveling the same route from Portugal. Most people walk at a similar average pace, so you end up meeting up with the same people each day when you make the next town even if you don’t all walk together. Four of us became friends early on—me and two Spanish guys and a woman from Portugal—and we spent every evening exploring the towns together. It was really fun to have others to share the experience with, and it was a great way of meeting interesting new people. Each of us had our own reasons for walking. One of them was the same age as me and had recently recovered from cancer. The whole experience of illness had make him think differently about life, and the Camino was his way to make sense of that experience. Another person I met had already done the Camino five times and did it again whenever he got the chance.

My other favorite part was finally reaching the Cathedral in Santiago, the endpoint of the journey. It was more emotional for me than I expected. I had been walking for over two weeks at that point. It was towards the end of a bright blue day, the weather had gotten cooler, and there was a Fall crispness to the air. The city of Santiago was much bigger than I thought, and it seemed like forever until we finally reached the main square where there was the Cathedral. When we finally reached it, though, it was magical. It was so beautiful, bright, and open. So large. There were groups of pilgrims clustered here and there, and I recognized several other pilgrims I had passed on the road but had not got a chance to talk to. Someone was playing traditional Galician music nearby, and the sweet cheerful tones just added to this atmosphere of celebration and homecoming. It felt great to finally take off my pack and celebrate with my friends the amazing accomplishment we had just completed.

Were there any unpleasant experiences during the pilgrimage or a particularly challenging part?
Yes, I had to do a lot of soul searching about halfway through the trip. I developed blisters and a terrible pain in my foot that made each step just tortuous. It was like this for two days, and then on the third day I physically couldn’t go on. I had to rest in a hotel room for a few days to rest. I didn’t know if my foot would get well enough to keep going, so I had to contemplate the real possibility that I would not be able to finish my pilgrimage. That kind of thought forced me to reevaluate what it was that I was hoping to gain out of the experience, and whether I would be okay not having that. Luckily, my foot did heal (a pair of new insoles helped a lot!) and I was able to finish the Camino with minimum pain, but it was a difficult period for me.

What did you learn about yourself or about life in general during the pilgrimage?
The thing that I really loved about the Camino was the incredible freedom I felt. You get up in the morning, pick up your pack, and walk out into the unknown with nothing holding you back. It does take a lot of trust. I had no map with me, and I relied pretty much only on the handpainted arrows that you would see on various surfaces of the towns and roads you passed that pointed you in the right direction. So, I can see how someone might feel anxious or vulnerable in such a situation, but what I learned was that however complicated we might make our task with worries and plans and expectations the only thing that is needed, in the Camino as in life, is to have trust, have faith, and keep going, watching out as well as one can for the signposts along the way. And once I stopped worrying about things like going fast or taking good pictures, things seemed much easier and freer. I could go as fast or as slow as I wanted. I could stop in that church or that café if I felt like it. It was my experience. I’m not there to accomplish anything or impress anyone. I can’t tell you how freeing that is.

Would you recommend others to do a pilgrimage? 
If you have the time and the ability to do the Camino, I say go for it. And if you’ve already gone on the Camino—go again! (at least I’m planning to 🙂 Every Camino is unique. The time of year, the people you meet, the route you take, all of these things play a role in making a Camino. But most of all, it’s you, the pilgrim, who shape your own experience. Based on my time there, and talking to people who have gone on the pilgrimage many times, the Camino is always different, and gives you what you need. Although it may not be for everyone, I think that if you have the desire to go, you should explore doing it.


Join the conversation by following @BrianSchmisek on Twitter and @LoyolaIPS on Instagram! Also, network with the Loyola Chicago IPS community on LinkedIn.