Faith in Action: My Time at St. Bernard's
May 11, 2021
We are all called to serve, but in what capacity? This has been a question I have been discerning for several years.
Throughout my undergraduate studies at Le Moyne College, the word “vocation” was constantly referenced. In the Catholic Church, vocation is usually associated with those that are called to the Sacrament of Holy Orders as service to the Church. However vocation is not limited to individuals discerning the priesthood; it is extended to all people of faith. One’s vocation is to answer his or her call from God to serve and build up the Kingdom of God.
I was drawn to St. Bernard’s because their ministry provided me an opportunity to continue my discernment through critical thinking and education while allowing myself to grow in personal prayer and to reflect on what it requires and means to serve the people of God.
The faculty and staff at St. Bernard's range in age, experience and field of expertise which afforded me different perspectives to learn and reflect. The diverse faculty are unique in their own way and brought much experience outside the classroom. They referenced situations in their own ministry that were relatable and served as a learning opportunity. My experience, especially when I began my program, was limited, and the guidance and tutelage from my professors allowed for sustained growth.
My time at St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry has offered me the opportunity to not only discern my call but to put my faith into action. St. Bernard’s provides a program that has afforded me a firm foundation in my faith. There is an opportunity to discover what it means to be a Catholic and follower of Christ through courses outlining the Old and New Testament and others that discover how we put our faith into action, like Pastoral Care I. The knowledge I have accrued is not simply for my benefit, but is used to minister and support those around me.
I have the privilege of ministering with young adolescents in a collegiate setting. One aspect from St. Bernard’s that has been realized in my ministry at Syracuse University is the personalization the professors and staff at St. Bernard’s provided towards me. Some might argue that knowledge is power, but my professors articulated through their words and actions how knowledge is service to others. Taking the time to answer a question, elaborate on a certain topic in class, or providing time and space outside of the classroom served as an example of their discipleship and service towards others. This example has challenged me to use my education and knowledge for the betterment of others as opposed to simply uplifting myself on an individual level. This model has given me the confidence to reach out to others and walk with them more deeply on their faith journey.
A personal example of this has been through the one-on-one gatherings I hold with students each week. Each student I encounter allows me the opportunity to form a personal relationship that is built on trust and discipleship. My Pastoral Care I graduate class with Dr. Roslyn Karaban in the summer of 2019 opened up new avenues of growth in my discipleship with students. I was able to learn and understand the skills that are necessary when I gather with a student. I was challenged to review what it means to be a good listener and skilled helper and identified areas of improvement. Pastoral Care is all about providing support through listening and responding to the other person’s needs. The skills and principles I learned in Dr. Karaban’s class have provided me the understanding and tools I need to continue my discipleship with the students I serve and with whom I walk at Syracuse University.
College campus ministry serves at the intersection between faith and reason. We walk with students who are at the beginning stages of their faith journeys, discerning where their vocation is in life. Many students find themselves questioning God’s presence in our broken world. St. Bernard’s articulates both of these points in each class and program that they offer. Whether you are someone who has recently been drawn closer to their faith or have come back after many years away, St. Bernard’s implements the real-world scenarios in their ministry training.
Building up the Kingdom of God must begin and end with prayer and a personal relationship with Jesus. I believe throughout my time at St. Bernard’s both of these principles were enhanced and affirmed. In order to journey with others in faith, we must have a firm foundation and personal relationship with Jesus. My experience at St. Bernard's continued to strengthen my relationship with Him. The Church as an institution is not perfect, but Jesus is perfect, and He is our main source of strength and refuge.