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Neuhoff Musings

BUT REALLY...MINISTRY?

Luz María Gutiérrez-Olvera, MTS '19

Date published: December 8, 2020 |  Version en español por favor oprima aquí

The University of Dallas is a unique place. While walking around campus, one can almost feel the ground vibrate with the possibility of meaningful knowledge and a life with purpose. Everyone is challenged to serious thinking, which swiftly becomes habitude.

My journey at UD began in my middle age years and, sometimes, it reminds me of the Gospel passage in Luke 8 which intertwines the story of the hemorrhaged woman with the healing of Jairus’ daughter. I find the contrast of characters hopeful. On one hand, we see a leader of the synagogue approaching Jesus with the confidence that his social status granted him. Jairus does not question his worthiness to talk to the master face-to-face and he directly begs for Christ’s help. On the other hand, there is the woman who not only is isolated due to her illness, but her gender alone posed the first social disadvantage. Nonetheless, she finds her way to Jesus, touches his garments and “steals” a miracle out of him. Even if at first sight the contrast may seem unfair, Christ makes no apropos remarks, and he helps them both the same.

I entered at UD with the resolution of the hemorrhaged woman and a hint of Jairus’ confidence and I immediately fell in love with the place, but mostly, with the people of UD. I must admit that I was intimidated by the intellectual capabilities, as any of my professors may confirm that I am far from being a scholar. Still, I encountered extraordinary people who seemed to recognize my individual talents and they pushed and guided me. The one thing I struggled with all along the way was to reconcile my faith with academia.

As part of my graduate assistant position, on one occasion I was helping at the V Encuentro of Hispanic ministries and I met a fascinating person. I have no memory of his name, origin, or his credentials, but his words I will never forget. As I was enthusiastically explaining UD’s Master’s in Theological Studies, I mentioned that several of my classmates were candidates to the diaconate. He was flabbergasted and said: “I hope that they put to good use their graduate studies. The one thing that I wrestle with is that when people go out and get doctorates, they mostly prefer to be among other doctors and to teach at the master’s level. The ones with a master’s degree tend to teach at a college level but, who takes care of the little guy? In the Church, we usually chase after the little guy to volunteer to train another little guy. No wonder we are in trouble!”

A couple of years later, someone close to me who has a predominant “worldly” view in life asked me about my brand-new job as part of the staff of the School of Ministry. When I explained that aside from being an adjunct instructor I was also a manager in the Continuing Education department, I was told that because the world was getting too competitive, it was incredible that a “glorified-secretary” position would now require a master’s degree. After the initial shock, I realized that such statement was only an honest reflection of this person’s view of the world. A few moments later, I remembered my conversation with my friend with no name and was able to warmly smile to myself while thinking: “yes, I will use my degree to serve.”

Finally, I figured that in order to reconcile my faith with the world of academia, I needed to recognize that, as important as it is to acquire the “vocabulary” of the theologian, this does little for the person who is not actively pursuing the heart of the saint. Unless we were to become contemplative hermits, our path towards sanctity inescapably requires living with and loving others as Christ loved us.  Understanding true love can better be achieved through practice. Wouldn’t the word “ministry” be a suitable description of what it means to love our neighbor?


 

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