Fruits of Being Jesuit Educated
By Megan Sheehan, Communications Coordinator for Campus Ministry
Rarely if ever has the future felt so uncertain, right? I think many of us feel ill-prepared to live through a pandemic, yet here we are, doing it. During a time that has more questions than answers, I have stopped to consider how the following three questions in prayer have served me well along my personal journey — questions passed on to me through Jesuit education. In these inquiries lie an opportunity — to hand our uncertainties over to God.
Where is God in all of this?
What does God want from me?
Have you talked to God about that?
These are questions that have been posed to me personally throughout my own Jesuit education, and questions I often pass along to my directees during spiritual direction. Do the ideal answers always follow? Certainly not. But these are questions of faith, and faith points from us to God, requiring a trust that these questions have answers of certainty often beyond our knowledge and understanding. These questions lend themselves to suggesting that God not only cares deeply and unconditionally for us, but that with God, our lives are in good and eternal hands.
Where is God in all of this?
“I’m pretty sure God is here with me, but I’m feeling pretty lonely.” I imagine this is something I may have said in the first weeks of my time at Marquette, back in 2005.
I remember venturing out to the much talked about Tuesday Night Mass at the St. Joan of Arc Chapel for the first time, just before 10 p.m. on a warm September night. I was by myself and sort of lamenting the trickiness that comes with new beginnings- making new friends, being uncomfortable in a new place, wondering where and how I would fit in. I wanted to fast-forward through this freshman newness.
When Mass ended, there was quite a buzz. Students gathered outside the chapel laughing and reconnecting, clearly people felt a sense of belonging and community here. I walked away from the commotion and looked back at the crowds and the chapel in the moonlight, imagining and hoping that I’d have friends to chat with eventually after Mass, and that it would feel like home. And it would. But at that moment, it didn’t quite- but I had faith that it would. “Where the heck is God in all of this?” I wasn’t sure, but I had faith I’d have an answer perhaps someday soon.
“God is right here.” I imagine that I could have offered this answer to the question of faith throughout my time at Marquette. Sitting in the grass at the Marquette Experience Retreat and reading about St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises for the first time, I found my own prayers and thoughts resonating with what I was reading: Pay attention to highs and lows in life- when we feel closer to God, and when we feel far from God. Pay attention to these moments and seek that which brings you closer to God. “Yes,” this makes sense to me,” I thought. “God is here.”
“God is right here.” I remember the energy of swinging from one activity to the next, while exploring my capabilities and delving into the opportunities offered at Marquette. Dressed in business casual outfits and heels, I’d head to Starbucks on Wisconsin Avenue, order a venti chai tea latte, and a piece of pumpkin bread and collect them to take to my Social Welfare and Justice Class.
I was dressed for my internship at Northwestern Mutual, for which I’d grab the number 10 or number 30 bus after class to head down Wisconsin Avenue to work in the communications department. I felt grown up, accomplished, grateful as I’d walk through the beautiful historic buildings to get to my cubicle to write an article. Next stop after work: back to campus to work at the Marquette Tribune and laugh a lot with my fellow “Tribbers” in the basement of Johnston Hall, imperfectly making deadlines with mediocre (at best) editorials and columns.
What does God want from me? Senior year. 2009. It wasn’t an easy time to find a job in the wake of the recession. I was graduating with a degree in Journalism, and a minor in Social Welfare & Justice. Because of the recession, my internship at Northwestern Mutual cut me to part time hours that summer.
What’s next for me? In the last weeks of my senior year, I was commissioned with fellow students who had committed to volunteer programs. The commissioning took place at the end of the Sunday 9 p.m. Mass in the Chapel of the Holy Family. I was headed to Cleveland, Ohio to participate in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) while living in community with 7 strangers.
I remember being surprised that Marquette Campus Ministry not only knew that I was going to participate in the program, but grateful to be called forward with other seniors to be prayed over to be go forth to “set the world aflame,” in the words of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Being commissioned was a simple moment, but a moment of encouragement that this was in fact, what God wanted from me.
I imagined myself landing in a position with JVC at a low-resourced, grass roots type non-profit. I was ready to work. I was ready to serve. So, when I arrived in Cleveland and realized that I would be working at a well-resourced Jesuit, all-boys high school, my first reaction was disappointment. I wanted to learn and grow in an unfamiliar environment where I was really needed.
Where is God in all of this?
No sooner had I arrived at my JVC placement than it became clear that God was there with me, that God wanted me to listen and watch, to learn and grow right where I had been led, even though it wasn’t what I thought I needed. Diving in was my act of faith, trusting God was there. And, being placed at Jesuit high school allowed me to continue my Jesuit education with the opportunity to have a Jesuit spiritual director.
Have you talked to God about that? “What an annoying question,” I remember thinking as the Jesuit looked eagerly at me with big eyes after posing it to me. I was at my first-ever session of spiritual direction and had been sharing my feelings of discomfort with the beginning of JVC, and frankly complaining. Why did he have to stop my complaining with a question like that? “No,” I answered. “I haven’t.” Then I smiled, “I guess you’re suggesting I should, huh?”
Each moment of frustration with uncertainty is an opportunity to trigger a prayer. It is in these moments that God is reaching out, reminding us that while we may not know or understand, God does, and God wants us to offer our questions to him.
So, this Jesuit Educated, spiritual director offers these questions to the Marquette community: Where is God in this pandemic — in the disappointments, the rescheduling, the time spent at home, the tragedy, the death, the continuation of life? And, have you talked to God about these uncertain times? Have you allowed moments of frustration and confusion and loss to propel you toward prayer? Finally, what does God want from you during this time? How will you look back at this time as one when you responded to invitations from the Holy?
Thankfully, these are not questions for you to answer on your own. Indeed, the questions themselves are a prayer of faith appropriate for uncertain times.
Alumna Megan Sheehan, College of Communication ’09, is the communications coordinator for Marquette University Campus Ministry. She holds a Master of Arts in Theology and Ministry from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry and is a spiritual director certified through the Ignatian Spirituality Institute at John Carroll University.