Contemplation and Theology: My Time at St. Bernard's
May 19, 2021
If you were to tell me five years ago that I would have a Master’s Degree in Theology, I would have told you that you were crazy and that one Master’s (in Social Work) was enough. But, that’s the way God works. We often sell ourselves short, while He has big plans for us. We just need to trust Him. That’s where my journey begins - with trust.
I have been a catechist for several years, volunteering happily in my parish wherever the need arises. I was a catechist for elementary aged children; led LOFT (Living Our Faith Together) intergenerational sessions; led faith sharing groups; Youth Group Leader; Vacation Bible School Leader; and Youth Ministry leader for NCYC. I was also working part-time in the nonprofit world when God began tugging at my heart. I was beginning to feel restless, like God was hitting me over the head, saying, “this is not where I want you to be. I have other plans for you.” I was ready for a change, but what?
I contemplated becoming more involved in my parish as the Director or Coordinator of Faith Formation. That seemed to be an easy and seamless fit. During the process, however, I felt that God wanted more from me.
I remember it like it was yesterday: January 18, 2017. I spoke with my husband about taking a class at St. Bernard’s. He, always supportive, told me to pray about it. So that afternoon I had a conversation with God and said, “OK, God, if you really want me to do this, there will be an opening in the 'Christian Scriptures' class.” (A class on the New Testament seemed most appealing to me). God heard me and responded: not only was there an opening in this class, but it was the only class that had not started meeting yet! To further make His point - that I should pay attention and listen - my husband and I had a diocesan meeting the next day (Saturday) for parish leaders, and St. Bernard’s had an information table at the meeting. I said “yes” to God, and haven’t regretted a moment of this incredible journey.
If I had to explain the impact that St. Bernard’s, with the grace of God, has had on me it would be - in a word - “Life-changing!” (OK, so that’s two words). This has been an incredible journey that continues to unfold. Trusting in God calls to mind Jeremiah 29:11, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" I firmly believe that as I depend on God for all things, he creates beauty and purpose in ways that I could not imagine.
I was hired as the theology teacher at Saratoga Central Catholic School for the 2018-2019 school year, with about 1 ½ years left of study. I just completed my course work and comprehensive exam on April 16, 2021. Working towards my Master’s in Theology, with a concentration on Scriptural Studies has led to my journey now as a full time theology teacher teaching grades 6, and 9-12 (high school). Again, I would not have foreseen this for myself.
I have been able to incorporate what I have learned through St. Bernard’s immediately into the classes I’m teaching. This has been a tremendous gift - to actually use what one is learning - immediately. This has led me to be a better teacher and allowed my students to think critically and to more fully embrace their identity as beloved children of God. How does this happen? Simply put by “doing theology.” What do I mean by this?
In my classroom, theology is done actively through the dialogue and reflection that occurs between the teacher (myself) and the students, and ultimately in our relationship with one another. Often the most profound discussions come about by an unrelated question that was not part of the lesson plan.
For example, my students' faith and their understanding of themselves in relationship with God becomes challenged when discussions arise from controversial issues such as the dignity of the human person and when one's dignity begins. Or where does the right to life come from? Who decides? These become very challenging because for the most part students want to do what is right and true, but they become confused between what the world is telling them and what their Christian-Catholic faith is telling them. This is just one example among many in which my education and experience at St. Bernard’s has impacted my role as a theology teacher.
In closing, I am inspired by the Holy Spirit to share the following: if you are wondering where God is leading you, what you are “supposed” to be doing in your life, what your purpose is, etc. - STOP. Simply listen to God. He will create a stirring in your heart. Simply listen. God’s plan for each of us is far greater than anything we could ever imagine for ourselves.
Rebecca Cronin is a 2021 graduate of St. Bernard's School of Ministry and Theology, where she earned her Masters in Theology with a concentration in Scripture studies. She also has her Master's degree in Social Work. She has been married to her husband, Tom, for 26 years, and is mother to two children: son, Kevin, a junior at Clarkson University, and daughter, Katie who is a junior at Saratoga Central Catholic High School. Rebecca teaches Theology at Saratoga Central Catholic High School, where she has been since 2018.