My journey to the John Paul II Institute was a slow one. As a college student, and into my first years as a high school English teacher, I recognized a growing desire within myself to shift my teaching focus from teaching English to theology. This was in large part to being introduced to theology of the body during my undergraduate years and the ways I later found myself highlighting theological and spiritual themes in my teaching of literature. After several years of this growing desire, I finally came to the Institute in 2011. Throughout the course of the program, my intellectual understanding of Christian anthropology and the Church’s vision of reality deepened, but what surprised me the most is how that vision came to affect the way I see myself, my family, friends, my students, and my work as a teacher.
One of the greatest gifts of those years was that I was accompanied by dear classmates and mentors (many of whom I am still close to!) who helped me and continue to help me live more fully what I learned. Some of the most key lessons were the deepening sense that everything is given, that I’m not reducible to what I do, that I am invited to embrace everything as a child, trusting that Christ is at work in my everyday life. I can see now with clarity that my Institute education was not only an academic endeavor, but ultimately a path of conversion.
After graduation in 2013, I went back into the teaching profession, but this time teaching theology as my main discipline. I was given the task of teaching a freshmen Scripture course and later proposed an introduction to Philosophy course as a senior elective. I was confident that I had the content knowledge and expertise to develop curriculum that communicated an authentic vision of reality from the heart of the Church.
On a deeper level, I have come to better understand education as introducing students to this awareness of reality in all disciplines; that these children are invited into the same relationship as I am, and I am there to accompany them on the same journey. Concretely, this is to help the students engage their experience at a deeper level, help them articulate their experience, and recognize Christ’s presence in everything, through an understanding of Scripture and philosophy. And that this can be said of all disciplines. What a task! Certainly, I have a lot to learn and am not able to do this on my own, but by learning to pray and live this more deeply myself, and being supported by a community of friends who help me to see more clearly, I can teach with confidence that I am never alone.
I can’t stress enough how grateful I am for the friendships from those years at the Institute—friendships that have continued to be fruitful and life-giving for more than a decade. They have a source of Christ’s presence, helping me to walk in faith, discern my vocation, live my days with hope, even when teaching is tough or life is unclear. When he is the reference point for everything, life truly becomes a beautiful adventure.