Student Highlight & Study Abroad: Linda, MDiv

Written by Hannah Crivello
September 26, 2013

For the next nine months, Master of Divinity student Linda Gasparovic will be studying at the Bossey Institute of Ecumenics in Geneva, Switzerland. This study abroad opportunity has been made possible by generous individual donors, providing a full scholarship to one of our students for tuition, books, fees, room, board, and round trip airfare.

The Bossey Institute is one of the few learning communities in the world to intentionally encourage and foster deep ecumenical dialogue, like that of Seattle University?s School of Theology and Ministry. The Institute invites a select group of students from all over the world to learn together through study excursions, classroom dialogue, and shared living spaces.

Before Linda left for Geneva in early September, we sat down with her to find out about the journey that led her deeper into ecumenical study and dialogue and what she was looking forward to the most in the months to come.
Linda traced the origins of her passion for inclusive dialogue back to her growing up in the small town of Granite City, Illinois. Linda remembers observing interactions between the diverse people and groups within the town on a daily basis. She observed barriers as well as opportunities for shared community. At a young age, she began to open up to individuals outside of her family and circle of friends. She began discovering what ?tolerance? means, showing kindness both in ways that are visible and indirect, and learning to love the differences of ?the other.?
Linda was a Fine Art major at Southern Illinois University, worked at Kentucky State University as Publications Director, and later migrated to the Pacific Northwest where she facilitated marketing communications for Pacific Northwest Reconciling Ministries Network and the Religious Coalition for Equality. Throughout her professional endeavors, Linda found ways to encourage diversity of perspectives and inclusion. From the ads she helped design to the clients she chose to work with, Linda developed a passion for listening, interpreting and helping people and groups understand each other.?
?Ecumenical work is a part of that same thing,? Linda told us. ?Playing the part of an interpreter. Making sure understanding happens. Conflict often comes from not really understanding and not listening well enough.?
After 20 years of considering the career change of going into full-time ministry, Linda was drawn to Seattle University?s School of Theology and Ministry. On the week of her admissions interview, her husband was laid off work and she was preparing to have major surgery. However, Linda recalls that she had peace about the movement towards the career change and the degree program all around.

"That's what faith is sometimes!"
Linda says. ?It felt right. And in this season of life, now being in school, I'm still in that ?listening for God? mode. I'm convinced I'm called to do something.?

Linda was immediately excited upon learning about the study abroad opportunity through Bossey. She shared with us: ?I think it goes back to my childhood and the question that I have hung onto over the years: ?Where is God working??. I?m always asking in my studies and in faith communities I?m a part of??Where is God working in each of these denominations?? I see that each faith community embodies a unique aspect of our ?picture of God? and when we come together, we can together see a more complete picture of God.?

Linda says: ?The reason why I chose an ecumenical school stemmed from the fact that my father was a Coatian Catholic (pre-Vatican II) and my mother was Southern Baptist. I came from a household where I saw how wonderful it was to live past divisions and truly share life together.?

The Bossey experience will enrich Linda?s fourth year in the Master of Divinity program. For students interested in Bossey Institute study abroad next fall, please visit here for more information.?

In closing, Linda was recently asked to write a reflection to share with our Denominational Outreach Teams and ecumenical partners. Here below are her words.

In 'Gambling on Hope: One Shared Faith,' Roger Gottlieb asserts there are only two religions in the world: ?ours, and the one that makes creed more important than love, being right more crucial than staying in touch with other people.? As the child of a Roman Catholic father and a Southern Baptist mother in pre-Vatican II Illinois, I understand all too well the latter.? I?grew up caught in the middle of families battling over whose faith was ?right.? At Seattle University's School of Theology and Ministry, I have been relieved to be taught the answer can be ?both,? and encouraged to explore different cultures and beliefs by avoiding assumptions and respecting the right of the individual to define themselves.

For me the beauty of ecumenical dialogue is that by seeing God through another?s eyes, I become open to?multiple understandings about?God without claiming I have the right to define the Holy myself. As I prepare for my trip to the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey this fall, I take with me a solemn commitment to listen not only for the sacred in unfamiliar rituals and beliefs, but for the voice of God defining self.

The school's faculty has led me to recognize my faith is richer when I explore the faith and culture of another and allow it to challenge . . . and possibly convert . . . my present understanding of the Divine Mystery. I do not expect to come away from Bossey understanding that Mystery, but rather in awe of the unlimited?God who is revealed. I imagine an immense statue of God that can never be viewed in its entirety, but only glimpsed through the opening of different doors, I expect this journey to be an invitation to gain new perspectives of God by seeing through the eyes of other members of the body of Christ. 1:17 Corinthians asks, ?If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?? As Christians we need each other to complete not only our image of God, but to be whole ourselves. I am grateful for this opportunity and look forward to having a better sense of this remarkable body of which I am a part.?