Shake Pray Love | Spring Retreat

Have you ever seen your professor shakin his booty?  Well, I have.  That image will remain with me always from the spring retreat, The Sacredness of Self-Care for the Emerging Professional. All of us, even Fr. Brian McDermott S.J., were dancing and shaking to African drum music!  It is apparently a technique used to alleviate depression.   Any time I need a lift, I can recall that mental image of my Spiritual Direction professor shakin’ what his momma gave him, and it will make me smile.

I anticipated the retreat held at The Shrine of St. Anthony in Ellicott City ever since Monique Daniels, Continuing Education Coordinator, (mcdaniels@loyola.edu) emailed the announcement for at least three reasons: (a) one of my favorite instructors, Fr. Brian McDermott S.J., was presenting, (b) it was being held at one of the most serene and picturesque spots in the area, and (c) practicing self-care for me and preaching it to others is one of my passions.   

It did not disappoint!

I actually got some quiet prayer time in around the excitement of the day.  What a blessing it was walking in silent contemplation around the Grotto to Our Lady!

Grotto to Our LadyAs I strolled through the Shrine’s bucolic grounds I made friends with the chickens.  Wouldn’t St. Francis be proud?

Friendly FowlThe library is my favorite indoor spot with its cozy fireplace.  I have been there on two other occasions for retreats.  The last time was on a chilly day in March.  While we kept the fire blazing by adding log after log, I curled up right next to it.  I never wanted to leave. When I realized that my group was meeting in there and I would get to revisit the spot, it added to my bliss.

Narrative artwork hung all over the monastery.  Its stories instructed and inspired me.  Especially intriguing were the series of paintings on the life of St. Anthony that graced the hallway’s walls.  Apparently he was quite a preacher.  So much so that legend has it that even the creatures wanted to hear him.  The painting shows even the fish jumping out of the water to lend an ear as St. Anthony speaks!

My sense of love for and belonging to the Loyola community strengthened that day.  My classmates and I bonded over sharing our wisdom and survival tips of self-care.  Honestly though, I am not sure if I am more consoled, or more freaked out over having to write my thesis next year, but at least I will have a plethora of self-care tools in my toolbox to see me through. 

I grew from the encounters I had with classmates from other departments thanks to a grant from The Foundation for Spirituality and Medicine students in Pastoral Counseling, Speech Pathology, and School Counseling all took the self-care journey with us free of charge.

I got to see a different side to Dr. Tom Rodgerson, Director of the M.A. Program, who will see me through Pastoral Care Integration and Pastoral Care Professional Seminar next year.   He told some interesting anecdotes about himself that were really endearing regarding his younger motorcycling days and his father who was a pastor.  If you want the details, you will have to ask him yourself.  I will never tell…

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).

More than Lip Service | Obama, Gay Marriage, and Unconditional Love

Fall and Spring are so nourishing at Loyola.  I find myself excited by the things I learn, the challenges I’m given, the classmates and professors who help me grow.  Then summer comes.  I take one class, maybe two, and the thrill of it all is packed into a few short weeks before I have no choice but to take a break.  And yet!

Last week Barack Obama spoke up in favor of gay marriage.  In that moment of his standing up for those who are marginalized, the excitement that normally comes to me through my courses set my heart once again on fire.  Why?  Because I saw a man who has been given great power – and with it, great responsibility – use that power to give voice to the voiceless, to show respect to those who are outcast, to preach acceptance and love not in a sermon but in his simply choosing not to discriminate, not to hate.

This is what Loyola is teaching me.  It is what Jesus – and the Jesuits who founded Loyola University Maryland – have always taught:  love unconditionally.  No wonder my heart is aflame when class is in session!  Learning to love is essentially getting to know God, Who is love.  The disciples asked regarding Jesus, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked to us on the road… (Luke 24:32)?”  I often refer to my experience at Loyola as my journey…I am walking with Him on this road and my heart is indeed burning.

Yet this summer my heart is burning again as I watch a man with so much power over others attempt to give that power to those without.  I took Intro to Pastoral Counseling a few semesters ago with Dr. Stewart-Sicking.  He had us not only reading about empowering others through our counseling but also through fighting the systems that keep others on the margins.  We were compelled to do service learning – I did mine at Bon Secours Hospice in Richmond, VA – so we could better understand those who are most in need of compassion – and action.  It gives me hope to see the leader of the free world risk so much (it is, after all, an election year) in favor of compassion.  Perhaps the citizens of his country will be inspired to risk the same.

I am taking only one course this summer although I dare say I am immersed in a second.  It is the course of Life, prerequisite:  Love.

Loyola’s Most Influencial People

Time magazine recently had an article naming their 100 most influential people of 2012, which made me start thinking about the different professors I have experienced through Loyola’s Pastoral Program and how they have influenced my life.

In the early part of 2009, I attended an information session about Pastoral Counseling at Loyola’s Columbia Campus.  Different speakers shared their experience in the Pastoral Counseling Department at Loyola.  I will never forget how I felt when Dr. Ciarrocchi, a professor in the Pastoral Department, spoke at the meeting.  His very presence embodied the spirit of Loyola.  I was so moved by how he described Loyola’s Pastoral Program that I knew in an instant that I had to become a part of whatever he was talking about.

On orientation day for the new Pastoral Counseling students, we were grouped according to the program we were joining.  I was confused as to which group I should join because I wasn’t sure if I was going to pursue my masters degree or take the classes I needed in order to be licensed.  I received my Masters in Clinical Psychology from Towson University in 1997 and it felt like a lifetime had passed since that time.  Dr. Fialkowski, director of M.S. admissions in the Pastoral Counseling Department, had recommended that I look into the Certificate of Advance Study program which would allow me to take the classes missing from my masters that were required for a Maryland license. 

I was very emotional on orientation day, scared to take this big step back into the world of graduate school and wondering if I had made the right decision.  At the beginning of the session with Dr. Ciarrocchi, he asked us what it was that brought us to this program.  When it came time for me to share, I surprised myself by breaking down in tears.  It had only been a year since I lost my brother to cancer.  Losing my brother propelled me to really reflect on my life and what I wanted to accomplish in my time here.  Dr. Ciarrocchi’s loving presence exuded from him while he comforted me and gave me the time and space I needed. Dr. Ciarrocchi fought a long battle with cancer which ended in the fall of 2010. He was the first professor I would have at Loyola and his being has left a forever imprint on my life.

Remembering Mary Marguerite

On May 3, 2012, I was watching the evening news and learned that an Episcopal priest and an administrative assistant had been shot, at their church, by a homeless person.  No names were given.  Over the course of the next week, more information surfaced.  Apparently, the shooter had a history of approaching the church for assistance but became agitated after being told he had to limit his visits to the food pantry so others could benefit as well.  He killed the two women and then killed himself.

At first, I felt horrified that such a tragedy had occurred, but I was able to distance myself.  I could offer prayers for the repose of their souls and prayers for their families and friends, but I did not know anyone involved.  Or so I thought.  When the names of those involved became public, the pain became personal.  I knew Mary Marguerite Kohn.  She was my friend.

Mary Marguerite, or MM, was a graduate of the PhD program in pastoral counseling.  While she was preparing to defend her dissertation, she spent hours and hours in the doctoral lounge entering data and reviewing and revising her work.  At that same time, I was using the office directly across the hall to help with the copy editing of Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion.  MM would come in frequently to visit with me and to offer support because she knew I sometimes got impatient with the pace of the academic requirements.  The process seemed to take so long!  She told me many times that perseverance was the key to success and to keep plugging away.  She set a wonderful model in that respect.

After she graduated, she became an affiliate professor at Loyola and at Fordham and sometimes consulted with me about online education.  She had a great love for her students and was deeply invested in their success.  I recall an extended email conversation about the cost of materials for one of her courses where she examined every possible way to keep the costs down and the quality high.  In addition to her kindness, I remember her intense energy, her easy laughter, and her generosity.  While I feel very sad about her death, I am also very, very grateful that I had the chance to know her.

Eternal rest grant unto her, oh Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon her.
May her soul and the souls of all the
faithful departed, through the mercy
of God, rest in peace.
Amen.

Thank you! A note from Tucker Brown, PhD

Tucker BrownDear Pastoral Counseling Faculty,

I am honored and humbled that you awarded me the Dr. Barry K. Estadt medal.  I belong to such a supportive and dynamic cohort of students; this honor is as much theirs as mine.  Thank you for helping to create an atmosphere of thriving, love, and life-long friendship.

 I worked hard as a student and I approached the pastoral counseling program as a formation experience, as a process that would shape me into a skillful, wise, attuned, and responsive healer.  I worked hard and I recognize that I am graduating on Saturday very, very much because of your encouragement and pruning — your illumination of my growing edges and your honest response to my efforts.

By your instruction, presence, and patience I have been discovering a voice that might be of service to others.

 My wife, Emily, and I are going to New Mexico because we feel called to live and work among those whose voices some call illegal.  I have been able to honor and nurture a desire to answer this call with your wisdom, teaching, and blessing, and for that I am most grateful!

See you at the reception.

In gratitude,

Tucker

From Brokenness to Healing

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.

Food for Multicultural Issues

I was cruising down St. Paul’s street in downtown Baltimore heading off to class when suddenly three youths stepped out in front of my car. My tires squealed as I slammed on the brakes, just in time. Then I waited. The young men stood in front of my car for about 20 seconds, watching me intently. Then they disappeared back where they had come.  During that time, I was not sure what to do. Had I heard the Multicultural Panel before this incident, and listened to Ryan Heeman tell a very similar story, I might have had a better clue. You see, I am white, and the youths were African American.

 If we are going to meet with this kind of dilemma in normal life, life as a counselor will bring even greater challenges. How can I be sensitive to someone who is LGBT? Am I aware of the cultural differences between Asian or African or Hispanic and the dominate white American? Have I ever stepped into the life of someone of another faith tradition, or enjoyed a celebration in another culture? These are the questions the Multicultural Panel at Loyola Pastoral Counseling Department addressed April 26, 2012.

 Professor Katherine Oakes, who teaches a course on Diversity Issues in Counseling, planed the panel. She brought in a number of MS and PhD students to share personal accounts, dissertation work, and clinical experience. They had a lot to share. 

 For each of us, there are limits to our understanding and our knowledge of other cultures. Dian Adams spoke of the clinical insights she has gained in addressing a client’s cultural context. She spoke honestly about having made assumptions, assumptions about how her client perceived herself. And she was wrong. She candidly admitted that had she asked, she would have been in a better position.

 Ryan Heeman recounted his personal perspectives on what post-racial means to him and what it might look like in his personal experience as a “Generation-Y’er.” His own story mirrored mine, except that Ryan knew to look the individuals in the eye and treat them as nothing more than some youths out to have fun.

 Other panel members addressed the issues of religious tolerance and understanding, and individualist and collectivist world views. They are not unique to a culture, says Inna Edara, speaking of his own findings in his dissertation research. And commonality is also not a given, according to Thomas Skeeter, who recounted his visit to Haiti. He expected to find something similar to his own community. Instead he learned that some Haitians could not understand how the African American community failed to reach out to them when they came as immigrants to America. The Haitian youths envied his opportunities for education.

The session ended with suggestions for more presentations and work in this field. Professor Katherine Oakes hopes to continue discussions on diversity and multicultural issues in the Fall of 2012.

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.

Riding the Dragon Down the Path To Pastoral Counseling | Teri Wilkins

My introduction to the pastoral counseling department came via Dr. Wicks.  I was presenting at the annual convention for teachers in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and he was the keynote speaker.  He had just published Riding the Dragon and spoke of how educators needed to take care of themselves, which was a lesson I needed to hear.  At the time, I was enrolled in a PhD program in education and was teaching continuing education courses in classroom management and brain-based learning.  I had retired from K-12 classroom teaching and had decided to change careers and become a full-time professor. 

While I was enjoying my classes and doing well academically, I had noticed a void in my secular doctoral program.  When Dr. Wicks noted he taught in Loyola’s pastoral counseling program, something finally clicked.  After decades in the Catholic school system, where spirituality had been embraced as a vital component of people’s lives, it was strange to me that the topic of spirituality was now actively avoided.  I decided to investigate pastoral counseling.

In the classroom, I had counseled many students, especially adolescent girls and teachers struggling with technology integration, but I had always been uneasy about that role.  While I was quite confident about my abilities as an educator, I lacked training in counseling.  Would studying pastoral counseling make a difference?  I was not sure but made an appointment to speak to an advisor. 

When I walked into the suite of offices that morning, I was struck by the atmosphere.  Everyone was so warm and welcoming.  I met one of the current students, and she graciously and enthusiastically spoke with me about the importance of spirituality in the department’s offerings.  I spent over an hour with the advisor, and she recommended first applying to the M.S. program.  Going from a doctoral program into a master’s program seemed a bit disconcerting, but she explained that the licensing work was at that level.  The thought that I could become a licensed counselor excited me, and after some extensive reflection, I submitted my application.

I am now completing my last class as a PhD student.  The past six years have been wonderful.  The coursework has been academically rigorous, my professors have been marvelous, and I have made enduring friendships and obtained employment as a licensed (LGPC) therapist.  I have honed my skills as a clinician, a researcher, a supervisor, and an educator.  The void has disappeared, and I have never been happier.