Dear Seminarian, You Are Not Alone!

Dear woman starting in seminary,

You are about to embark on a journey in graduate school. You will take the courses on church history, learn about what the heck hermeneutic means, and grapple with your own call.

Here’s the first thing to proclaim: you are a woman in seminary. You can call it theological studies, graduate school, whatever, but the fact is that you are Catholic, you identify as a woman, and you are in a seminary, a locus of theological study, prayer, and ministerial formation. You are in the Boys Club.

 If nothing else, I want you to know that you are not alone. Even if you are the only woman in the circle sharing about how you arrived to this place – moving across state lines, giving up fiscal stability, engaging with questions of purpose – you are not alone. You are here because you need to be here. You are here because God is calling, challenging, God is with you. Jesus has laid claim to your heart and is inviting you to prophesy. The Holy Spirit will animate you.

The communities who call you, the people who love you and form you, are with you. It is important to consider and remain rooted in your answer to the question of, for whom do I study? Your way of arrival may be distinct from the “future priests” in the room – and by that, I mean, guys who theoretically are celibate and called to the roman catholic priesthood. Their arrival may follow the line of, “well, my superior sent me here.” Or, this is the last stop before ordination. Your answer(s) will be different. Claim them, name them, find relationships in which those answers are CELEBRATED!

 I am also here to tell you that there are so many other women – 75 years old, queer, Latina, Black, 35, moms, aunties, women religious…  so many women have been on this path, too.  There are women in Scripture who dance with tambourines, who dare to speak their Yes to God, who bear Jesus into the world. There are unnamed women who anointed and ministered with Jesus during his earthly ministry. And thank God, you too, by virtue of your baptism, can claim that lineage.

You are here because at some point, that still, small voice (or, maybe it was an insistent clamor of shouting!). Even if people have uttered a sheepish welcome to you, know that you belong. Jesus is the one who invites; it is not the men with collars who are God’s gatekeepers. Your rootedness in Jesus is your source of authority. You belong in your gloriousness, in your brokenness, in your half-thoughts and questions.

As you begin this new chapter, I invite you to post this magnet where you will see it everyday, even as you hunch over textbooks and pour out prayers in your journal. Repeat it aloud, every day. These words were a treasured gift from a mentor of mine, and I know offer them to you:

The people of God are in need of my gifts.

As part of your membership in this Sophia Collective, this beautiful and eclectic ekklesia, know that we have a whole cadre of folks scattered across the world, fervently praying. We are praying for you. We will be distributing prayer cards to our network in the next two weeks, so please respond with a photo and a verse/poem and contact information that can be included on the prayer card. You will be held in prayer throughout your time. We will have a virtual gathering at the end of the month to offer a ritual of welcome. We hope you can make it, zoom details to follow!

My sister, the days are long in seminary, but the years may be fleeting. We are here to hold you – spiritually and financially. Attached you will find a grant request form that you can fill out one time per semester for an unrestricted grant. This money does not need to be re-paid. This comes from our collective’s “Second Collection.” We trust that you know what you need most – so if it’s to cover a co-pay for a therapy session, a massage, textbooks, a plane ticket to visit a family member, food for your pantry, simply apply. There are no strings attached.

We have a list of spiritual directors that hold various identities, including BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and Catholic/Catholic adjacent. We hold periodic retreats (virtually and in-person). Subscribe to our regular podcast, where you can “tune in” to the community.

Finally, our website includes links to workshops, prayer circles, retreat opportunities, and more. If there is something you’re needing crowdsourced, you can reach out to us! Whatever your level of engagement that feels right for you, we are here.

We are delighted to enfold you into the beauty and care of this community.

In solidarity,

Lisa M. Cathelyn, M.Div. (she/her), on behalf of the Sophia Collective

6 thoughts on “Dear Seminarian, You Are Not Alone!

  1. Lisa,
    I love this! I love how you thought through the kind of support women seminarians need. This letter is so thoughtful and thorough, hopeful and exciting. I would love to support new Catholic women seminarians through the Sophia Collective.

  2. This is a lovely initiative. As a JST/GTU alum, in light of my own experience, I’ve often worried about the women who came after me, most often what happens with their lives afterwards. Can you post an actual link? I couldn’t get there from here.

    1. Hi Suzanne!! I would love to connect with you more on this. the website does not yet exist…. 😀 but God willing, something will in the coming months and year!!! email me at let’s do a 1:1.

  3. First, this is amazing! Do you have plans to share this with students? I am continually blown away by your creativity and compassion. I’d love to support women in seminary, especially LGBTQ+ women. Let me know if I can be a part of this movement!

  4. YES! All the YES! All the hearts! We should chat sometime about this vision.

    I love how you are inviting others to know a sense of belonging. May you know it too.

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