Impressed by Seattle University’s mission, vision, and values, Lan Nguyen journeyed from Vietnam to enroll in the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies degree. As a working sister with her congregation, Lan wanted to pursue further theological training and pastoral ministry in order to better serve her parishioners, who needed help to understand and see God in their daily lives. Lan was eager to explore the Christian tradition along with other religions’ traditions, in hopes of building a strong faith community in her hometown.
Lan has found that Seattle University uniquely provides opportunities for interfaith collaboration, nourishment for her own spiritual life, and many activities for students to practice pastoral care and leadership within and outside of the classroom. Lan says, “I come from another country, so exchanging and interacting with other students from different Christian denominations and other religions is one of the greatest meaningful lessons in life at the School of Theology and Ministry. It helps me to develop better skills for dialogue between religious communities and between cultural practices as well.”
A vital part of her experience and formation in the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies program is her internship with St. James Cathedral Kitchen, a place that welcomes people from diverse cultures and backgrounds. Here, Lan serves food for people experiencing homelessness, and acts as a listening companion while practicing pastoral care through presence. Lan explains, “I have become more confident about my ministerial direction. I’ve used the skills I’ve learned in class to practice at my internship, and it has helped me see my ministry in a new light.”
Lan’s internship supervisor has been instrumental in her growth, connecting her in-class academic learning with her contextual education. “He has helped me grow in my communication skills and develop the skills I need for my professional goals.”
Lan offers this advice to students: “Never be afraid to ask questions. Asking questions is not a sign of weakness or mental insufficiency – it simply shows that you are interested enough to seek truth and better information.”
Dhiraj Masih-Theberge found himself at the School of Theology and Ministry by recommendation of a few respected friends who spoke highly of the school’s mission. He enrolled in the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS) program for the purpose of exploring theology.
The MAPS degree encourages students to discover their gifts and develop them for service. Students engage in a process of deepening self-knowledge, exploring the Christian tradition, and considering their potential to minister to the world. Dhiraj has found these aspects of the program especially meaningful.
In his time at the School of Theology and Ministry, Dhiraj has reflected on questions of how to be a better listener, how he perceives the humanity of people labeled “other,” where the divine/transcendent shows up in his experience of others, being aware of power dynamics in his communities, and his own dominant socio-cultural and religious narratives. He holds a strong desire to be present with and bless others in contexts of pain and suffering, and is continually deepening his ability to do so. Through his time at the School of Theology and Ministry, he says he feels more secure in his mind and body, better able to stay present to the moment, and less defensive about his theological understanding.
“My MAPS degree is grounding me in and connecting me with a larger tradition of varied knowledge and practices that make me more whole as a person, which enables me to be more attentive to and better serve those around me.”
He has also gained a newfound appreciation for the ancient texts through courses like Hebrew Scriptures. He remembers the professor shattering the myth of a common Sunday school song during the first-class meeting, at the shock of all of the students, and found the rest of the course to be a profoundly eye opening, challenging, fun, and engaging look at the scriptures.
As he continues to discern where his ministry will take him, he reminds himself and others: “Relax into the educational experience and have fun. Allow your beliefs to be challenged and played with – your faith will be richer for it.”
Connolly was looking to stretch her horizons and start over in a new place. Originally from Tennessee, she was interested in Seattle’s diverse culture and the School of Theology and Ministry for its vastness of ecumenism. Looking to enhance her undergraduate education in theology, she chose to pursue the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS) degree.
Through the MAPS program, Connolly has learned a lot about how people work, what motivates them, and how to be more receptive to those in need. The program has provided insights on compassion for others, as well as a better understanding of humanity and where she can fit in with the world. “The class reading materials have really allowed me to dig deeper into who I am, and that has led to me having a deeper and more profound outlook on the imperfectly perfect being God made us all to be.” Connolly explains, “I’ll always remember the compassionate way of being my professor modeled in class, and her advice of presence is the best gift.”
Connolly has had the opportunity to put her education into practice through her contextual education internship at Providence Mount St. Vincent, an assisted living facility. As a spiritual care intern, Connolly provides pastoral care support to residents through different forums. She says, “I can provide a listening ear to their needs, with the hopes to do what I can, even if that is just to hold them in prayer.”
Connolly’s internship supervisor helped make the internship experience formative and impactful. Her supervisor was open and willing to let Connolly make mistakes and to learn at her own pace. She pushed Connolly out of her comfort zone in order for her to learn and get the most out of her internship experience. “The Spiritual Care Team at Mount St. Vincent was a very cohesive and vastly different group of people. It seemed that they all fit together like a puzzle.” Connolly explains, “I not only had a great experience with each of them, but also with my work and the wonderful guidance that came with it.”
Connolly describes the School of Theology and Ministry as “an amazing, beautiful, and inviting place that lets you be you.” She shares, “I have found the community at the School of Theology and Ministry to be one that is open and life-giving. It is an inspiring, impressive place with inspiring and impressive people. Growth is so possible here.”