I have started on a new path. A few years ago, I was meeting with a spiritual director to discuss a possible change in vocation. When I discussed my interests in working with counseling and spirituality, she mentioned the Pastoral Counseling Program at Loyola. I have been receiving mailings from the program for the past few years and decided this was the year for me to start. I connected the start of this journey with the start of another one, when my wife and I were searching for a church home. We found it at St. Marks Episcopal Church, Capitol Hill. It practices an open communion. Every Sunday our clergy state the following: “No matter where you are on your faith journey, no matter what you believe or do not believe, you are welcome to eat at God’s table.” Admittedly, my wife and I were taken aback when we first visited the church, mostly because the openness we experienced felt so different from any type of church culture in which we grew up. We came back and have stayed for almost ten years because we love the community, and its values resonate with what we want for our family.
In addition to the openness of St. Mark’s, I felt a connected to the idea of “brokenness” that often is the topic of sermons. I grew up Catholic and many of my church memories connected to the feelings of guilt and shame that individuals were meant to bear privately as a result of sins they committed. At St. Mark’s we talk about “brokenness” as those parts of our lives that prevent us from becoming the people we are called to be. Instead of feeling like our brokenness needs to be hidden in the shadows, I have learned that it is through greater examination of these parts of our lives and the process of bringing them into the light that we get closer to understanding ourselves and enhancing our relationships with others. This is where I find the most meaning of what it means for me to be a pastoral counselor. How can I serve others helping them work through some of the brokenness in their lives, and also by continuing to work on my own?
This is the big question that serves as my compass at the start of my journey in the Master of Science in Pastoral Counseling program. It has served me well, along with the phenomenal faculty, like Dr. Elizabeth Maynard and Dr. Dee Preston-Dillon, and students I have encountered in the Human Development and Introduction to Pastoral Counseling classes. I am not sure where this path will lead me, but that’s okay for now. It has been a rich and rewarding experience thus far.