Graduation Dinner Reflection

At our graduation dinner last night the other four Master’s in Theology graduates and I were asked to submit short reflection related to our time as students and now graduates of the Theology Master’s Program at St, Catherine University. I wound up writing mine straight from the heart, so I’m afraid it was less about my favorite class or my most uplifting experience, but at least it had the virtue of being honest.

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I must admit that last week’s graduation was bittersweet. I was thrilled to be graduating, oh my goodness, yes, especially with my family there, and with my friend Sherri (who was absolutely glowing and stunningly beautiful); but at the same time I was fighting a migraine and on some fairly heavy-duty painkillers (!) and my fibromyalgia had me so sore that we went straight home afterwards instead of going out—where I sat around in my brand-new academic robes and hood and gorged myself on takeout pizza and watched bad WWII movies on Netflix with my husband George. Okay, so that part was fun, actually, and I wish we had thought to take photos of me stuffing mushroom pizza in my face wearing my graduation regalia!
The bittersweet part is that people keep asking me what is next, and I stumble around, trying to come up with something funny to say, and I’m at a loss. The dream that has kept me going, through the myriad of chronic pain conditions that has required me to drop classes and seek numerous extensions and medical leaves of absence (thanks Bill! (our super-understanding theology department head)) has been pastoral ministry, especially the idea of chaplaincy. That’s the whole reason I entered this program. And now these chronic pain conditions are making it impossible for me to hold down even a part-time job. Or be a reliable volunteer, much less work full-time as a hospice chaplain. So there is triumph in the degree, but grief and uncertainty when i contemplate my immediate future.
Still, there are several treasures  I will take away from this outstanding program to help guide me in my coming journey. I have met so many amazing, compassionate, loving people here at St. Kate’s, both faculty and students, who I am honored to count as role models, mentors, and friends. I know that your prayers go with me, just as mine go with you, and that our journeys together do not end here, but in many ways have only just begun. I am excited to continue growing as both a scholar of theology and as a pastoral minister. My studies here have opened so many doors! I feel I have only dunked my toe in the water. And, too, I will take all of your stories with me. I have had a rough time, yes. But I am not the only one. So many of you have done battle with your own pain, and done it with immense grace and courage, and I cannot tell you how much I admire you and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. Finally, I take with me the knowledge that I need to trust in the process, as Deb (my mentor and pastoral ministry prof.) told me recently. This is very difficult for me, (trust is not my strong point) but I know she is right—I need to learn to take better care of myself, and learn to trust that the Holy Spirit will lead me in the right direction, even if I don’t know where in the heck I am going now, beyond more physical therapy. After all, Someone helped me through comps!

2 thoughts on “Graduation Dinner Reflection

  1. Barbara,
    Feeling a little guilty about not keeping up with your blog, I came out to catch up. As I started reading this post, my heart went out to you. Every time I start feeling the stirrings to go find a job, I have a flare-up and realize that I am truly thankful I don’t have to work. However on the flip side, I so much want to be a part of the “real” world. I can only imagine just earning a degree and not feeling like you are going into the “real” world to use it.
    Well, while reading, I had a thought. What about using the internet for a ministry for those suffering with mental/physical illness. People in chronic pain whether it be physical or emotional struggle with leaving their home. I have times like this. One of the reasons I am such an avid facebook person is for interaction and validation. It seems like a group could work together via the internet with faith as the center. You live is a very populated area. I would think that you could reach out to parishes to start an on-line ministry to those who are struggling. It could also be extended outward to include the world.
    I don’t know. It is a thought. I am praying for you my friend.

    Blessings,
    Lisa

    1. Lisa, I’m not sure I feel called to a ministry like that…part of my problem is that as much as I love to write, it presents problems too. One, when I have migraines, or my fibromyalgia flares, it’s almost impossible for me to do so. Two, although I’m on the internet a lot just for human contact and validation, as you said, it is soooo not enough. I feel so isolated. I need phone calls, at least, to hear a real, live, warm, human voice and not just words on a screen! But it helps so much just to know that you understand how I feel; that in itself does make me feel much less alone, so perhaps you are on to something. Please keep me in your prayers, my dear friend, as you are in mine.
      Peace,
      Barbara

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