I am the fifth child of six in my Irish Catholic family. My mother is a dedicated stay-at-home mom. My father worked a job he hated just to put us through Catholic school. I never understood the value of a Catholic education, except that we learned how to tie neckties early on.
Yet year after year, during the weeks when January became February, my class was always assigned to write cards for our parents expressing how much we appreciate our Catholic school education. However, it took me until I was out of high school and deciding upon an academic major, and reflecting on past experiences and future hopes, that I truly valued my education.
Jumping in at my 17th year of life, I had to pick what I wanted to focus my studies on. I knew I wanted to be an educator of sorts, and realized how a huge part of one’s character formation develops in secondary education. I ended up selecting history with a certificate in secondary education. I thought I wanted to work in Catholic education when I’m older, so I popped on a theology major as well in March 2019.
Between mid-March and November 2019, so many awesome events and moments happened that fed my spirit with the Living God. I had an awesome opportunity to visit Lima, Peru on a mission trip with some of my fellow classmates and three joyful IHM sisters. The trip itself was a beautiful life-reflecting trip where we assisted English teachers in their classrooms to aid with pronunciation. The amount of gratitude those small children showed was immensely spirit-filling.
Thereafter I directed Camp Caritas, a summer camp that provides instruction (instead of the usual weekly PREP program) for a number of middle school children from Bonner & Prendie High School. Those experiences gave me a boost in my excitement for theology. Now, I continue my studies as solely a theology major. Personally, I know, I have an astronomical amount of certainty and faith that God will lead me, guide me and protect me during my future endeavors.
I was first interested in theology because all throughout grade school, theology was a subject I just tolerated. Then in high school, we started to dig deeper into all the things that make Christianity so great. However, it seemed like only a very select few (if anybody) was getting excited about it like I was. After time and observation, it seemed like it was going to be that way until “something” happened. I want to be that “something” for my future students.
From my experiences, teaching theology all comes down to how you present it so that the students have a positive outlook on the subject. A teacher can “make or break” that attitude.
All throughout my years in high school and grade school, I remember being told to reflect or meditate, but in reality the whole class closed their eyes, thinking about whatever was occupying their mind, and waited to hear “Alright, open your eyes.” There have been times when we really meditated and reflected, and they were great, but it wasn’t often enough.
When talking with classmates and peers about our spirit and spirituality in general, it was a common practice to come up with a quick joke or inappropriate comment that would block further discussion on the topic. It seemed that we (I wasn’t always excluded in these scenarios) accepted so much “little” sin in our lives that it was blocking the spirit guiding us in life.
I want to spend my college life learning and studying for my future students so that I can aid in their process of spirit-finding, so that the individual can see God. I want to turn my classroom into more than a typical lecture, because theology cannot be taught like other classes.
Theology should be spirit enriching through life meditation — finding the goodness and happiness in life through reflection, growth and change. I want to help them find their spirit.
I’m excited to be a part of the new wave of theology educators.
McElwee is a theology major expecting to graduate in 2022 from Immaculata University.
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