New Seasons, Emerging Roles

I am a lifelong Catholic and I have always loved and felt drawn to work in the church. I’ve lived and worked in various ministries in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and now call North Carolina home.  I have studied theology, taught in Catholic schools, directed parish religious education programs, worked as a catechist, and coordinated a ministry for Catholic mothers, but I have always considered my gifts within the confines of what was available and appropriate for women to do.  The Catholic Church has always been the container by which I evaluated what roles I could and should have.  It is only recently that I have begun to question if and how this container has limited the expression of my gifts. What are the ways that my gifts my rub against the boundaries of what has been traditionally acceptable? Are there things outside the boundaries that may be life giving?  When I read the description for this workshop, it struck me as good place to safely explore these questions and what they mean as I prepare to take on a new role in ministry.   

I have been a stay-at-home mom to my three children for the last eleven years.    I have loved this role and the ways it has stretched me toward greater love, helped me to find joy in small places, allowed me to know my kids well.  As I emerge on the other side of this season, I realize that much of who I am is tied to a traditional understanding of myself as a wife and a mother.  I have deep gratitude for the years have I spent home with my children.  It is with relief, excitement, and some trepidation that begin to deepen my understanding of who I am beyond these roles. 

This Fall, I will be taking on the job of the campus minister in our local, K-8 Catholic School.  The school community is strong, diverse, and committed to faith and service, but there is space (especially in these pandemic times) to create deeper channels of care, more authentic experiences of prayer, and greater education for justice.  I will be learning more about the community and about my place in it as I seek to minister to the faculty, students, and families of the school.

Because of public health concerns, school is going to look different, and the traditional modes of gathering and assembly will be absent.  The logistics and routine of the next school year are still unknown. So much is uncertain.  And yet, there is the opportunity in this moment to create new ways of learning, relating, and listening. I hope that these changes will afford the chance to establish the new routines of prayer and community that create an authentic and transforming encounter with God. 

I have so many questions about where I should focus my energy and how to minister most effectively to the community.  It is my hope that this workshop might help me to sharpen my focus and zero in on the questions that are most important.  And then, help me plod a course toward the answers. 

Additionally, as I prepare for this workshop and think about the experiences of the Catholic (and ex-Catholic) women I know, I am distinctly aware of the need for this kind of safe space where we can gather, share honestly and listen to the call of the Spirit.  I’m excited to see what unfolds in the coming weeks!

St. Bernadette, pray for us

While in college at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, I visited weekly with a retired Jesuit who lived in the infirmary of the Jesuit Residence.  Fr. Comey had spent much of his life and ministry offering retreats and workshops throughout the world to educate and implement the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.  It was a gift to know him and be with him in the last years of his life.  Fr. Comey shared his devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette Soubirous with us.  As we begin this workshop, I think of him, his prayers, his life, and his work. And I invoke the intercession of St. Bernadette.

St. Bernadette’s own experience of God was doubted and scrutinized by those in authority, but she trusted her own experience, knew God was faithful to her, and learned of Mary as the Immaculate Conception.  As I am member of Immaculate Conception Parish and will be working at a school under her patronage, it seems especially fitting that I ask St. Bernadette to be with all of us on this journey. 

7 thoughts on “New Seasons, Emerging Roles

  1. appreciate the perspective of a mother entering a new chapter in this journey. I also have a great appreciation for St. Bernadette- her clarity of heart, simplicity and fortitude. Thanks for invoking her. I look forward to journeying with you.

  2. Hi – I am so touched by your questioning whether the container of the church is big enough for your gifts–and the image of you “rubbing” the boundaries is powerful. I look forward to our shared time this June. Diane

  3. I have always wished our parish school had a campus minister role. I think I would like that…tho I feel like I need to continue to fight for women’s equal role and not settle for a job.

  4. Thank you for what you wrote. I am struck by the question “Are there things outside the boundaries that may be life giving?” I think this is a beautiful question to explore in this workshop. Blessings on the journey!

  5. Dear Jeanne,
    These days I am struck by God’s Spirit at work in chaos and uncertainty when we step out of the upper room in faith.
    • Your strong mentoring skills shine in the way you empowered volunteers to step forward and succeed when the parish formation program was in chaos. What can you draw from that experience to aid you in your new role?
    • You know how to meet your children exactly where they are, hear them, and invite them to deeper understanding. What a gift! Do not chaotic times call for this same simplicity? Might your new school community with all its varied constituencies come to a deeper appreciation of “God Is real” if they are invited in all kinds of creative ways to simply see God’s face in one another, to find God’s grace in their work and play?
    • By following your instincts rather than your plan, you walked with the Mom’s group into mystery. God’s presence was made visible as each woman was affirmed and empowered by having her story heard. Together you made “church” as Jesus intended it; your shared experience was sacrament. No limits here on your gifts. Not even close. Cause for rejoicing. In this new place, how might you nurture your attentiveness to God’s presence in the moment so as to recognize what is most urgent there?

  6. Jeanne,

    I so resonate with what you’ve written here:

    “The Catholic Church has always been the container by which I evaluated what roles I could and should have. It is only recently that I have begun to question if and how this container has limited the expression of my gifts.”

    For me, though, it began in college; I’m seeing over the last couple of years how what I’ve always held to be a really beautiful time of learning about the church and the lives of the saints was tainted by an abusive relationship with a priest. So much to wade through. But yes, looking anew at how this container has limited the expression of my gifts.

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