Like Moses, I wandered the desert for 40 years. Unlike Moses, there was no hike up Mount Sinai and certainly no burning bush. My journey to Loyola began with a 2,000 mile trek across the United States from the bare brown deserts of West Texas to the lush green overgrowth of Maryland. I’ve yet to find a burning bush, but I have found a smoldering fire of desire buried beneath the soil of my soul.
Besides the usual growing-up stuff, I had spent those 40 years in the fields of law, medicine, and health. Fifteen years ago, newly adorned with my Master of Public Health degree, I found a spot within our federal government to practice all that I learned. Public health provides survival essentials to humans such as clean water and vaccines. Public health workers are devoted to promoting environmental, physical, behavioral, and occupational health. I know all about epidemiology, biostatistics, health economics, and public policy. What I could not find in public health, though, is a way to measure and foster the wellness of souls.
Our government has several agencies that promote mental and emotional health, but the research and promotional efforts of these agencies dance around the topics of spirituality, God, soul, and religion. Federal and state funds are freely used by independent researchers to explore these topics and their message is often translated privately into the public sector.
But there is no application of spirituality within the framework of public health.
The question came to me within a few years of my career: how can I bring the divine presence into my public health work? In response, six years ago, someone handed me a Loyola pastoral counseling brochure. I researched Loyola and its competitors extensively. Back in 2006, Loyola had little competition for souls. (Wanna-be’s are springing up everywhere but the Jesuits have the best original package.)
It wasn’t exactly a burning bush, but I had asked a question and received an answer. It was the only answer. I viewed it as giant neon sign flashing the divine message: GO THIS WAY!
“This Way” is the path of a Master of Science in Pastoral Counseling. It will end in a year’s time. I won’t have any stone tablets etched with smoking commandments, but I will have a piece of paper etched with this immortal word: graduate.