Student Reflections on Conception Abbey
The Saint Mary Theology Club retreat at Conception Abbey was the perfect end to a year filled with fun and meaningful volunteer time hosting confirmation retreats for local parishes.
The abbey provided a wonderful oasis of beauty, tranquility, and team-building that inspired retreat team members to grow individually and as a group.
There were many meaningful opportunities to seek and find spiritual guidance, which included participating in the Liturgy of the Hours, a vocational talk from one of the monks, communal meals, group debriefings, and spending time unplugged from the distractions of everyday life and impending final exams.
Each of these experiences allowed each of us to reflect in ways that made it possible to truly experience God's presence.
In a very short period of time, I feel the retreat to Conception Abbey was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that strengthened the relationships of our team members and blessed me, personally, with renewed energy and immense spiritual growth.
Los Angeles Religious Education Congress. March 13-16, 2014:
The experience of attending the Religious Education Congress in Los Angeles was one I will not forget. Every moment seemed to be exactly right.
It all started from amazing preparation done by so many people. I am deeply grateful to the Saint Mary Theology department and especially to our benefactors, Sharon and Tony Albers, for all they did to make sure my experience would be awesome.
The first day of the Congress was kind of a shock. It was amazing to see so many people in one place for the opening ceremony. Every part of the ceremony was obviously rehearsed over and over again because so much was going on. From precessions, to songs, to speeches, the opening ceremony was an amazing experience that kicked off the weekend just right.
The cool thing about the Congress is its location at the Anaheim Conference Center. It is huge, with an arena, ballrooms, banquet halls, exhibit halls, and more, not to mention the three giant hotels surrounding the center, all with their own meeting rooms. With all that space, however, there were still people everywhere.
The speakers I heard did not disappoint. Each one was different and talked about topics I really enjoyed. My favorite speaker was Fr. Greg Boyle, who lives in Los Angeles. He tries to help Hispanic gang members leave their pasts behind and start a new path in Christ. He helps them get jobs through an organization he created called Homeboy Industries. He is a real example of someone doing God's will and making a very impactful difference. Some of the stories he told will stay with me forever. I didn't want to leave but remembered the message delivered throughout the Congress that we are called to take what we learned all over the globe.
The Congress was amazing and created memories that will last a lifetime. I gained a deeper sense of what it means to be Catholic and was moved by the community created in one weekend by so many people, all connected through Christ. I have two siblings who are directly involved in religious education and I have already told both we all should try and make the Congress next year!
Student reflections on Phyllis Zagano's lecture at Rockhurst University. March 11, 2014:
"Women and Ministry in the Roman Catholic Church"
During her lecture, Dr. Zagano shared her desire to find space at the table for the women who want to preach and teach, women who are formed and trained in the ministry. She posits that there is plenty of theological and historical evidence that women have been and can again be ordained as deacons.
She appreciated what Pope Francis had to say on the subject which was that "...the role of the woman in the church must not only end as mom, worker, limited. No! It's something else ... I think that we need to move further ahead in the development of this role and chrism of the woman." With that, she believes Pope Francis said "yes" to women as deacons.
As discussed in our sacraments class, there are seven sacraments: Baptism, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick. Holy orders and anointing the sick are special orders usually for the bishop, priest, or deacon.
Dr. Phyllis Zagano opened up some key points that I had never considered: Why are women in the Catholic Church not given the same authority as men?
Women can bring a different perspective to the gospel. In my own opinion, the world is changing and will continue to change. Therefore, if the Catholic church continues to remain the same, the newer generations will slowly drift away from the church.
Phyllis Zagano is an internationally-acclaimed Catholic scholar and lecturer on issues containing women in the church and contemporary spirituality. Dr. Zagano argued against the idea that women cannot image Christ.
In our History of World Christianity, class we saw that women have not been as present in the church and recognized as much as men. Kiyohara Ito Maria is an example of a woman who built communities in Japan for women.
I connected with message and the passion that Dr. Zagano shared towards women's importance in the church.
Student reflections on Peter Brown's lecture at KU. March 11, 2014:
"Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD"
During his lecture, Perter Brown referred to his study of late antiquity, and how Christianity spread across Europe. However, he focused on wealth and poverty in Christianity during the fall of the Roman Empire. He examined how the religious movement assisted in the care of the poor.
I was particularly moved by his question "Were the poor to be treated as 'others' or were they to be treated as 'brothers'. He also gently reminded us what Jesus said; Matthew 6:19-21; "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
He touched on how taking care of the poor was sometimes viewed as "heroic" and at other times it was done quietly due to the secular view of alms as throwing money into a social void.
By attending Peter Brown's lecture at KU, "Treasure from Heaven," I now have a better understanding of the roles that wealth and poverty played in shaping Christianity after the fall of Rome, and a greater appreciation of how religion can, and does, evolve over time.
Brown insightfully explained how early Christians struggled with the idea of renouncing wealth in order to be a true Christ-follower, while also depending on wealthy benefactors to provide the funding that would ultimately shift the Church into a promoter of social responsibility.
I appreciated the opportunity to see Peter Brown, who is the world's most prominent scholar of the rise of Christianity. He provided an in-depth historical framework with which to better understand the origins of my own faith.
I recently had a discussion about Christians "paying" their way to Heaven, or lessening their time in purgatory.
In his lecture titled "Treasure in Heaven", Dr. Peter Brown stated that people would pay money to others in order to reserve wealth in Heaven. The more they gave to the "poor" the more treasure they would accumulate in Heaven.
This related to the alms-giving we discussed in class. The more some paid the priests the less time their deceased family member spent in purgatory.
I was surprised that the idea of paying one's way into Heaven was widely accepted.
When talking about "Treasure From Heaven: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West", Peter Brown first noted that Christianity in 350 AD was out of step with the rest of the world.
The words "treasure in heaven" was coming to have a new meaning for early Christians. His lecture traced the changes from Treasure from Heaven to Treasure in Heaven.
The early church had been of the poor. Christians worked among the poor but those works changed as the church became rich.
The church was changing from that of love of the poor, as noted in the Beatitudes, to giving to the poor. Giving came to be seen as gifts to the poor that would open a path to heaven, and would build up treasure in the afterlife.
It was a joy to listen to a speaker who worried that we could not see the footnotes. Only a true scholar worries that the listener should understand what are his thoughts and what he has learned from other scholars. He spoke of his 500 plus page book as "a camel of a book" which I would even consider reading after this very interesting talk.
'Thought Provoking' Conference Addresses Unique Dichotomy of Religion, 'Modern Society'
By Dr. Brian Hughes, Professor of Theology
Students from the Theology of Sexuality and Marriage course taught by Theology Professor Dr. Brian W. Hughes attended the Marriage, Sexuality, and Dating conference at St. Louis University, in St. Louis, on March 1-2.
The conference offered presentations by students on a variety of topics related to the title of the conference ranging from Christian relationships to AIDS.
One of the USM students, Enrique Gonzalez, was one of the six presenters at the conference. His paper titled “A Respectful Outlook on Women” dealt with the role of women in the church and gender inequality.
But to attend this conference, you did not need to submit a paper or to be in a theology class.
“This conference is very informative and thought-provoking, and it’s interesting to hear presentations from other students who go to different universities,” said Maggie Stewart.
Ashley Muldoon, another student that took the trip added: “Although many of the things that were discussed at the conference were topics that we discussed in class, I still learned many things, and also got to hear many people’s different opinions.”
For Aaron Potter, something that he took away from the conference was that “theological teaching gives us the “ideal” way to live but one does not or cannot simply live the “ideal” life.” Doing so, “it is to try to put out a fire with a Bible. Perfect principles do not apply to imperfect conditions”, he said.
“In the future […] I will really encourage my peers to go. […] By the end of the conference, I found myself pushed just enough to where growth and reflection could take its course,” Potter concluded.