What’s Happening – March 2014

Happy Friday Meaning Making Readers!

Starting this month Meaning Making will have a monthly summary of events from the last month and a list of events coming up for the next month.  If you have something you would like included for next month’s addition, please let us know!  Enjoy and thanks for reading!

What you missed last month:

Dinesh Braganza SJ facilitated a workshop in a technique called Core Transformation as developed by Connirae Andreas. It provides a way to resolve inner conflicts and bring oneself to experience inner harmony and alignment.  I found the steps simple, but focusing on the body and getting out of my head challenging.  After the two day training, I felt competent to practice the technique on myself.  I have continued to practice the techniques, each time learning something new about myself.  Since the workshop I seem, without any great effort, to appreciate and value myself more.  This in turn has transformed how I interpret my world.

-By Nicole Snyder

Joanne Miller had her final dissertation defense.  Her dissertation is titled: “Counselor and Theological Identity Formation and the Ethic of Inclusion for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Clients”.  Using interpretative phenomenological analysis she examined how Christian counselors-in-training engaged their theological beliefs about sexual orientation in relation to the ACA Code of Ethics.  She found that the process of the participants accepting their ability to counsel lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients was facilitated by seeing the client as Jesus would and/or an increasing awareness of the counselor’s limitations and control.

-By Nicole Snyder

Drs. Mickey Fenzel and Tom Rodgerson spoke at the “Chat with the Chair” event.  Topics included the Department of Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Care successfully being reaccredited by the AAPC and CACREP, the launch of a community advisory board on how to improve the programs offered, and how the new computer program LiveText will benefit faculty and students.  Additionally, an announcement was made regarding the opening of three full-time visiting faculty positions in the department.  The remaining time was used to facilitate a discussion regarding the names of the department as well as the names of the degrees offered.

-By Nicole Snyder

Upcoming Events:

March 8: God Forgot Where I Was: Using Spiritual/Religious Issues in Therapy with the Traumatized at Timonium (http://www.examassure.com/) 2pm-5pm

March 13: Celebrate Diversity Day in Columbia Campus, Loyola (Questions: drlasurebryant@loyola.edu) Noon – 3pm

March 15: LGMFT discussing Autism: Counseling and Education at John Hopkins University Montgomery Campus (RSVP sgardn14@jhu.edu)  9am-Noon

March 18: Gathering of the M.A. Community at Room 304 Columbia Campus, Loyola University (RSVP rhmozeak@loyola.edu) Current students & Alumni Welcome  12:15pm – 1:15pm

March 20-23: Psychotherapy Networker Symposium in Washington, DC (http://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/symposium/2014/)

March 25: Using Eastern Forms of Spirituality and Prayer to Become Wholesome Persons of the Healing at Room 360 Columbia Campus, Loyola University Process (Questions: jfox1@loyola.edu)  Noon – 1pm

 

WWJP: What Would Jesus Practice?

Vernon WareWho is someone that you look up to as a counselor? Adler, Frankl, Freud, Perls (yes, Fritz and Laura), Ellis, Beck, May? The list of names goes on and on, but I wanted to suggest one name that you might not have considered. Jesus. One of the many titles that is conferred upon Jesus is “Wonderful Counselor” (Isaiah 9:6) and I would hope that at least being “good” counselors is something that all of us have as a goal. So with that in mind, I wondered this simple question, WWJP? What Would Jesus Practice? Can we look at the life of Jesus and detect a partiality to a specific theory of counseling?

Would Jesus be considered a proponent of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) when he counseled a rich young ruler to consider giving up all of his riches to the poor, so that he could truly be fulfilled?

Would Jesus’s time with his disciples be considered a very intensive Reality therapy session since Jesus asked them to make the choice to be in relationship with him and the other disciples to change their lives?

Would Jesus be considered a proponent of Person-centered therapy because of his brief group therapy session with the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-11) and the men who accused her, where he asked very few questions but changed the behaviors of both the men and the woman?

Would Jesus be considered an Adlerian because of his transformative meeting with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-9)? Jesus met with someone who was hated, even by himself, and in one conversation changed his thinking about himself and fostered Zacchaeus’ social interest so much that Zacchaeus said that he would repay those he had cheated four times over.

Jesus broke many of the conventions of that time: working on the Sabbath, having conversations with women and having connection with Gentiles, just to name a few.  So could we conclude that he was a proponent of the Existential approach since he championed the freedom of persons to choose their own direction in life?  

And while it is uncomfortable for me to put Jesus and Sigmund Freud in the same sentence, I do have to admit that Jesus did have a skill at getting through other’s Ego-defense Mechanisms.

There is obviously much more that can be said on this topic and I hope that you will respond and do just that! I would love to hear your feedback and get your answer to WWJP – What Would Jesus Practice?

Why does CACREP matter? An interview with Dr. Oakes on accreditation, retirement, and excellence

Dr. OakesHave you heard that Dr. Oakes was retiring?  Not just yet!  We still need her expertise.  Loyola University is in line with the trend according to Business News Daily of employers who are hiring workers over 50 valuing their experience, credentials, and mentoring abilities.
Read on to find out why Dr. Oakes changed her retirement plans, and to uncover exactly what CACREP is and why it matters.
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing my new boss in the Pastoral Counseling Department, Dr. K. Elizabeth Oakes (Kayliz).  I work with Dr. Oakes chiefly on our pursuit of CACREP re-accreditation through the self-study process. Below is an account of the interview highlights.
 
 
JoAnn: How long have you been with Loyola’s Pastoral Counseling Department?
Dr. Oakes: I joined the Loyola Pastoral Counseling faculty, July 1, 2002.  So, I am coming up on my 10th year.  I am coming from a background of clinical training as well as practice.  I am a graduate of this program. I graduated with my doctoral degree in 1999, and a CAS (Certificate of Advanced Study) in 1994.
(Dr. Oakes alluded to closing out her work here and retiring, so I asked her about it.)
JoAnn: That leads into my next question, I heard that you were retiring, but now I hear that you have taken on the role of Chair of the Pastoral Counseling Department?  Can you tell me how all that came about?
Dr. Oakes:  The Interim Chair.  I found out, as it were, (that I will serve) for a year in that role as a transitional object.   Are you familiar with that term?  I am using it inappropriately though, in clinical counseling it is not used that way.  (I am serving as Interim Chair) in order for the department to move between the loss of the previous chair due to illness, and to do a faculty search to get a chair brought into the department.

JoAnn: And does that have anything to do with CACREP – you staying on and changing your plans of retiring and taking on the role of Chair?
Dr. Oakes: Yes, it has everything to do with CACREP.  They would like the leadership of the department to have a background in Counseling Education.  And the previous interim chair had a background in English Literature, so we needed to change that.

JoAnn: So, not only are you functioning to help with CACREP accreditation, but your very credential helps with CACREP because you have what they are looking for in the leadership of the department?
Dr. Oakes: Yes, that is correct.  My degree is in Counseling Education.

JoAnn:  Ok, let’s back up a bit.  For those who may not know, what is CACREP exactly?
Dr. Oakes: Let’s start with the name itself.   It stands for Counsel for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.  This is the accrediting body for the American Counseling Association.  …  CACREP looks to provide standardization and consistency in the quality, content, and relevance of the curriculum of students who are in counselor education programs. 

It does this in several different ways, but the two main ones are CACREP:

  1. Looks at the content of the courses
  2. Examines/monitors how we prepare our students to become professionals in the field; seeing that the formation of the students’ professional identity is consistent with that of the field and then making sure that the teachers who teach are qualified and of a caliber that helps to meet the expectations of CACREP standards. 

 (When I asked Dr. Oakes why CACREP accreditation is important, she offered)

Dr Oakes: … it is more like CACREP is a watch dog, like AMA for physicians.  It gives you credibility to the public that is seeking your services.  If they see that you have been trained by a CACREP accredited program, they will be assured that you have had a quality of training in line with what the profession expects for its counselors to have. 

JoAnn: How did you become the CACREP expert for the department?
Dr Oakes: This past school year, 2011-2012, I was the MS Program Director, and the CACREP process makes sense to fall under the purview of whoever is in that position.  Also, I had training from CACREP to conduct the self-study. 

JoAnn:  So what does the PC Department do to keep its CACREP accreditation?
Dr. Oakes:  (She says as we share a laugh.) You would have good insight into that!  We conduct a CACREP accreditation self–study.  We investigate, review, analyze, and assess how well we have been doing as compared to the standards that CACREP has laid out for us.

Our self-study then is reviewed by CACREP officials.  Next, we have a visit from a CACREP team that samples what we have told them in the self-study for verification.  They write a review and analysis and make recommendations to the CACREP board of directors, and at that point the decision is made whether or not to grant the accreditation status. 

Once the board makes a decision to grant us re-accreditation, we could get an interim re-accreditation (2-3 year) or a full accreditation (8 years).

JoAnn: Is there anything else about CACREP that you think we need to know?
Dr. Oakes: Well, it is very important to have CACREP accreditation!  It really makes the department pay attention to the quality and character of the faculty that we hire, it makes us look closely at the admission strategies and the assessment of potential students and their ability to be successful in the program, and it contributes to the evolving professionalization of the field.

The Pastoral Counseling Department also holds university-wide Middle States accreditation, and at least 3 certifications: the National Board of Certified Counselors, the National Association of Pastoral Counselors, and International Registry of Counsellor Education Programs (IRCEP).  

 

 
 
 

 

Counseling Programs: Secular or Pastoral?

Shared Counseling Program Experiences—“Something Beautiful for God”

By: Tara Mastoris

My boyfriend, Anthony, and I are both in graduate counseling programs. Anthony does not go to Loyola’s Pastoral Counseling program. He attends another school’s clinical counseling program. I thought it would be interesting to share Anthony’s experience of being a faithful person in a secular program versus my experience of being a faithful person in a faith-based program.

Some difficulties Anthony finds being in a secular program:

1. It can be frustrating at times going to school with people who do not turn to faith in the counseling process (mentioning God and/or a Higher Power in counseling conversations seemed so foreign in the classroom environment).
2.  Anthony expected faith to be incorporated more into the classroom than it is. This became especially obvious when one of his professors discouraged prayer and talking about prayer with clients.

Some benefits Anthony finds in his program:
1.  Though faith is not prominently discussed, Anthony is encouraged by the informal discussions about faith among his classmates.
2.  In our conversations, Anthony has begun to discover more about the pastoral side of counseling. In his future practice, God will be the center of the therapeutic relationship between him and his clients.
3.  Anthony believes he is more aware of God’s presence in the counseling process because he has a growing awareness of the absense of faith discussions in classes.

Some of the benefits of a pastoral program for me:
1. I love that prayer is an integral part of the classroom discussion.
2.  Prayer has served as a vehicle to learn more about my classmates. Through conversation and prayer, I have been able to participate in their journeys.
3.  The faculty is committed to integrating spirituality and counseling.
4.  I am able to evaluate my progress not just as an academic student, but I am also able to reflect upon my spiritual growth.

I love Mother Teresa’s following words: “You can do what I can’t do. I can do what you can’t do. Together we can do something beautiful for God.” Anthony and I have discovered that the differences in our counseling programs have allowed us further reflection on the types of counselors we hope to be.  

When we share our different experiences and use our strengths and gifts to the fullest in whatever we pursue, we can “do something beautiful for God.”

Reminiscing with Ralph: An interview with Dr. Ralph Piedmont

I have had the honor of working as Dr. Ralph Piedmont’s graduate assistant for the past several years.  The experience has been personally and professionally enriching because of his high expectations, intense energy, genuine concern for my development, and abundant generosity.  For example, I have met many luminaries in the field due to his leadership on the Mid Year Conference on Religion and Spirituality.  As his teaching assistant, I have honed my instructional skills and have increased my knowledge about psychological testing and statistics, and I have been impressed by his openness to learning from me (e.g., the incorporation of adjunctive materials such as podcasts).  He has invited me to be a co-author on several publications, including an upcoming chapter in an APA handbook and an upcoming article in Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion.

Teri Wilkins and Dr. Ralph Piedmont

Dr. Piedmont supporting my Emerging Scholars presentation (2011)

Someone with his depth and breadth of knowledge and prolific publications can appear intimidating, but I have always found him to be amazingly approachable.  I recently had the chance to sit with him and bombard him with questions, which he graciously addressed.  He spoke about how his professional journey brought him to Loyola, his consideration of spirituality as an aspect of personality, the development of his ASPIRES instrument, his appreciation for the core values of Jesuit education, his role in nurturing his graduate assistants, and many, many more topics.  See below for my questions and comments and for the audio links.

  1. How did you end up at Loyola?
  2. Can you tell me what the trajectory of your interest in spirituality has been?  When did you really start thinking about that?  Has that always been part of something that has drawn you?
  3. For those who aren’t familiar with your work (I don’t know that everybody realizes how prolific your writing has been) and also the scale development for your ASPIRES scale, can you talk a little bit about how that came to be?
  4. So you were looking for a universal human quality?
  5. That’s been some of the criticism of social science research, that whole WEIRD acronym (i.e., coming from Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic nations).  It seems like a lot of your data has been in populations that don’t necessarily follow that kind of “WEIRD” criticism.
  6. One of the benefits of being in the Pastoral Counseling department at Loyola is the ability to attend the Mid Year Conference.  You’ve been fundamental in having that be a major part of research presentations.  Can you talk a little bit about that? 
  7. Not just professionals, but students have a lot of opportunities.
  8. PRS is not the only journal you’re involved with in terms of editing.  Can you talk about the other?
  9. Loyola seems to provide a lot of support.
  10. What do you see as your role when it comes to interacting with your graduate assistants?
  11. Can you talk about your recent experience in Poland and what’s ahead of you in Poland?
  12. Where do you see yourself going forward at this point? 

Many thanks to Dr. Piedmont for his patience, willingness, and candor during the interview!

Loyola Clinical Centers: An Interdisciplinary Approach

How does one become the best counselor he/she can be?  The classes offered through Loyola’s Pastoral Counseling Program provide the foundation to becoming a good counselor.  The Pastoral Counseling Program also requires two years of an internship at a mental health facility for their degree programs, which helps to provide the experience.  Loyola also offers hands-on clinical experience through their own Clinical Center located at the Columbia campus for Pastoral Counseling students.

Because of my Masters in Clinical Psychology and my status as a Certificate of Advanced Studies Student, I was not required to do an internship.  I felt I was sorely lacking in the experience of true counseling because my previous internship experience through my masters program was at Kennedy Krieger Institute and the internship utilized behavioral psychology primarily where I basically observed the behaviors of clients and recorded them.  I chose to do an internship during the 2011-2012 school year through Loyola in order to gain the experience I lacked but was intimidated by the thought of counseling clients one-on-one and I expressed my concerns to Dr. LaSure-Bryant.  She informed me of Loyola’s Clinical Centers and the opportunity to work there in the summer prior to my internship. 

The clinic has a diverse population of clients who come in for counseling.  The clinic’s focus is on the care of the client so they try to work with the client’s financial situation in order to make counseling affordable.  One aspect of the clinic, which was particularly appealing to me, was that talking about spirituality was acceptable which brought a whole different dimension to the counseling experience.  At my internship experience in the fall, talking about prayer and spirituality was not encouraged and I shied away from those topics unless the client brought it up.  At Loyola’s Clinical Center, clients choose to come in to see a Pastoral Counselor, which provides the forum for the subject of spirituality to be brought up during the counseling session.

I gained invaluable experience working with clients while having the expertise of my supervisor, which gave me the confidence I needed to work with clients in the fall.  There are many opportunities for Pastoral Counseling Students in the clinic whether it is through counseling or running group therapy in conjunction with the Speech – Language Pathology DepartmentLoyola’s Pastoral Counseling Department provides its students with the opportunities to become the best counselor one can be.

Surprised by Authenticity, Diversity, and Hope | 10th Anniversary Mid-Year Conference

Where can students and faculty from so many diverse backgrounds come together, respect each other’s opposing views, and learn from each other?

At Loyola’s 10th Annual Mid-Year Research Conference on Religion and Spirituality (MYC).

session in progress
As I listened to A Dialectical Paradigm Shift in the Search for the Sacred, the presenter, M. Chet Mirman, PhD outlined what it means to be sacred, mentioned Buber, the supernatural, transcendence, and having a sense of awe and wonder at the mystery of the world. 

I was under the impression that the room was filled with theists on a quest for God (i.e. the sacred).  There were at least two Catholics in the room other than myself: a Jesuit pastoral counseling affiliate faculty member Fr. William Sneck S.J. PhD, and a Catholic nun in a full habit…

Then, someone in the audience raises his hand and asks this question, “What do you mean by keeping the baby of spirituality while throwing out the bathwater of bad metaphysical beliefs?”

Mirman replies, “Well, you know, God parting the Red Sea, bushes spontaneously bursting into flames, and other similar phenomenon.  The inquisitor looked puzzled.  Then the presenter offered, “Well, I guess I’d better come clean and tell you all that I am an atheist.” Mirman continues, “And I am trying to find my way back to belief.”  You could have heard a pin drop.  After a pregnant pause, the conversation continued with the theists and the atheist discussing metaphysical, philosophical, and theological theories and constructs.

I had taken four pages of notes and listened to his lecture for forty minutes before he disclosed that he was an atheist.  I think he was courageous to transparently admit to his views in a room full of theists.  And the fact that the discussion didn’t miss a beat with both theists and atheist learning from each other speaks to the brand of education found here at Loyola

Scioli signs his book for Teri Wilkins

Scioli Signs Book for Teri Wilkins

      A Whole Brain Intervention to Instill Hope was another example of the strength of diversity in action.  Anthony Scioli, an American, and Fr. Jen Charles Wismick, a Haitian, worked together in Haiti to instill hope in the survivors of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.  We need each other and work best in community; we do not do pastoral care in a vacuum.
Well attended session at Mid-Year Conference
Loyola students are diverse, hailing from all over the world, representing every race, creed, ethnicity, and gender.  Additionally, we are inclusive; we listen to, respect, and learn from each other. 

And that is why I am proud to be a student at Loyola.

Life after Loyola |An Interview with Lurlene D. Sweeney, LCPC

LIFE AFTER LOYOLA: 
An Interview with Lurlene D. Sweeney, LCPC

My first-year clinical supervisor, Mrs. Lurlene D. Sweeney, LCPC, is a graduate of Loyola University Maryland’s Pastoral Counseling program.  She is calm, sensitive, compassionate, and understanding, with a strong work ethic.  I was always impressed with the skill and ease that she brought to our supervisory meetings.  Not only did she have excellent clinical skills, but her pastoral presence was very valuable in helping me navigate my new role as a bereavement counselor intern.  Even after our mandatory sessions were over, I would call Mrs. Sweeney whenever I needed therapeutic guidance, and she was always amenable to receiving my calls.  Therefore, as I considered life after Loyola, my mind automatically found Mrs. Sweeney.  What follows is a glimpse of Lurlene D. Sweeney’s life after Loyola.

 

Glenda Laurent Dickonson:  When did you graduate from the Pastoral Counseling program and what degree did you receive?
Lurlene D. Sweeney:  I graduated in 2003 with a Master’s of Science in Pastoral Counseling.

GLD:  What was your first job after graduation, and how easy or difficult was it to attain? 
LDS:  I began working prior to graduation as a consultant.  I had formed a partnership with two other clinicians and we provided behavioral health consultation to a non-profit as a subcontractor for the Department of Health and Human Services from 2002 – 2004. 

GLD:  Did your affiliation with Loyola and/or the Pastoral Counseling program benefit you in finding employment after ending your tenure with Health and Human Services?
LDS:  In 2004 I was employed by Prince George’s Health Department Children and Parents Program (CAP) where I had done both years of my clinical internship.  I worked there as a therapist until 2006.  Actually the director had offered to hire me during my first internship year with CAP, but I declined because I did not want it to interfere with my studies.  So you see the connection with Loyola in terms of obtaining employment.  It is often the case that a student is offered employment at their placement. 

GLD:  You left CAP in 2006, so what is your current position?
LDS:  I am an independent contractor with The Pathfinder Project, Inc., a group practice serving multi-generational, multi-cultural clients with a variety of mental health disorders.  I have chosen, at this time, to work part-time, and this venue suits my needs, allowing me to work 2-3 days per week.  In addition, I provide supervision for graduate students in Loyola’s Pastoral Counseling program (http://www.loyola.edu/pastoralcounseling).  I enjoy staying engaged with the students and staff at Loyola.  My flexibility in my work schedule facilitates my availability for supervision.

GLD:  Did you have a specific goal upon graduation, and if so, have you attained it, or are you on your way?
LDS:  Actually, I did have a goal.  I have not yet attained it, and it’s possible that I will not; but that’s okay because what I am doing is no doubt in line with what God has for my life.  My goal when I began the Pastoral Counseling program, was to develop skills and qualifications to work with organizations, particularly churches in conflict.  I wanted to do conflict resolution within the religious community.  The description provided by Dr. Bob Wicks during open house was that this program was a marriage of theology and psychology, and it sounded like the ideal program to launch the career I wanted.  I had an undergraduate degree in psychology, and had spent decades studying scripture, and I loved both areas.  Therefore, Pastoral Counseling sounded great to me.  By the way, I had never heard of Pastoral Counseling before reading the announcement for the open house in the Washington Post.

GLD:  What was your favorite or most meaningful class that you took at Loyola?
LDS:  The most meaningful class was Group Therapy because of what happened in that class.  I witnessed the power of the process to bring meaningful change in a person’s life.  That class changed me and my classmates in a very profound and lasting way.

GLD:  Is there a professor or staff member who inspired you or who you admired?
LDS:  Dr. Wicks impressed me as to what it means to be a pastoral person.  Dr. Joe Ciarrocchi left an imprint for being demanding but fair; the former Clinical Director was the most encouraging to me personally.

GLD:  Many students come to Pastoral Counseling as a second or even third career.  What about you?  What were you doing prior to Loyola?
LDS:  Prior to Loyola I was a career Civil Servant.  I retired as a Supervisory Safety and Health Manager from the U.S. Coast Guard.  That was a job that required more left-brain activity – thinking rather than feeling, making tough decisions, managing crises, etc.

GLD:  Why Pastoral Counseling?  Was it a calling? 
LDS:  Given the diversion from my goal, I must acknowledge what people like Dr. Allan Tsai said to me early on – that I possess a gift that makes it easy for people to talk to me, and I am able to really hear what they are saying.  I know the gift is from God, and has been there all along, but I was not pursuing the development of the gift.

GLD:  What advice do you have for current PC students?

LDS:  To get the most out of the program, one has to be open to the experience.  It’s not just an education, it is a process of personal change – a journey, first for the learning clinician, and then for those they work with.  As scripture says:  “And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor.”  2 Tim. 2:6 (NLT).

A Journey of Faith and Fulfillment

A journey of faith and fulfillment. When I read those words on the Loyola’s Pastoral Counseling website, I felt the connection. I have come to see my life as journey, one that needs discernment, one that believes in destiny. I was facing yet another major life change when I felt the call to enter the Pastoral Counseling program. 

My first discernment of journey came early in life. I felt called to the monastic life when still in my teens.  I applied and got accepted into a monastery. Following that call required privations and sacrifices, leaving family and friends behind as I forged a new family, community and life. I found the call challenging but remained in it for many years. Finally, circumstances made it clear I needed a change. Though it proved the most difficult decision in my life, I accepted the call to move on and left the monastery.

But moving on can mean so many things. I found it hard to identify with my peers when I went on to college.  I felt out of place with my colleagues when I got my first job. I watched life progress and felt as though I were standing and watching it through a window, forever wondering where I fit in. Perhaps I had somehow gotten lost on my journey, perhaps I had missed my turn or wandered into areas I was not meant to be.

Then I found the ad in Commonweal describing the Pastoral Counseling program at Loyola. It mentioned calling, journey, and spirituality. I felt the attraction, I felt it to be the fit I longed for.

When I came for my interview, I knew my first test would be getting accepted into the program. Next, I would have to complete the requirements. But I was no stranger to sacrifice and challenge, to discernment and prayer.

Best of all, I have found classmates in this program who have had similar experiences, whose journeys have not been straight and narrow, but rather winding along a path of uniqueness. I am thrust into a group that is no stranger to suffering, sacrifice, and challenge. Here, I no longer look out the window and wonder about the rest. I sit at table and discuss, share, and experience.

I find strength in learning of the journeys of others. I find inspiration, comfort, and encouragement at the commitment others are making to be in this program, seeking a degree in Pastoral Counseling. I find that many, like me, are changing careers, forging a new path, accepting the daunting challenge of becoming a Pastoral Counselor.

And so I continue with my journey, working in the Master of Science program, hoping to become a Pastoral Counselor. And I know I am not alone.

Finding my vocation at Loyola

Many students in the Pastoral Counseling programs were attracted to Loyola specifically because they are encouraged – and even guided in how – to approach counseling through the lens of their faith.  I am one such student.  My journey began in the MA program after several people had asked me to be their spiritual director.  Having no qualifications to do that, my answer to them was no.  However, I felt God asking me to become qualified.  I am a consecrated virgin in the Catholic Church and I understood my new calling as a way in which to reach out to others considering their own vocation.  What I realized very early on was that my new calling is really a way in which to live out my own vocation.  I switched over to the MS program at the end of my first semester, anxious to become a licensed clinical professional counselor…a career I would have never guessed I’d be in.

            I am a Christian.  I believe God is love and Jesus is God.  Therefore, Jesus also is love.  When I took my vows in the Order of Consecrated Virgins, I became a “bride of Christ,” as the rite declares.  As such, I believe I must also be love.  Before starting at Loyola, I thought I was doing pretty well at being love.  I was very accepting and respectful of others – of their faith traditions, sexual orientation, ethnicity, personal stories.  Or so I thought.  Classes like Contemporary Religious Perspectives, Psychopathology, and Diversity Issues in Counseling opened my eyes to the many ways in which my heart had been closed.  I began to see how many limits I had been trying to place on my limitless God and I was given tools to break apart that box I was trying so hard to fit Him in. 

            I am constantly amazed at how other people understand God.  In this program I have encountered Buddhists, Muslims, Baha’i, Orthodox Jews, Hindus, Protestants, and Seventh Day Adventists.  I have been blessed to hear them share the God they know so well.  I see their God and my God are not as far removed from one another as I once thought.  God, as I know Him, looks much different than He did the day I married Him.  He is more beautiful and more loving than I gave Him credit for.  And the more I meet Him through the program, I am falling in love with Him all over again.