Pursuing Religious Freedom

by Rev. Shelly M. Mohnkern

Mistakes are, after all, the foundations of truth, and if a man does not know what a thing is, it is at least an increase in knowledge if he knows what it is not.
C.G. Jung

This country’s exploration of the ideas of religious freedom has been on my mind a great deal over the last couple weeks, and different states struggle with what it means to allow the freedom of religion, in balance with legally excusing discrimination. The states will make mistakes, and hopefully learn from them, just as we in our pursuit of knowledge and learning seek to understand our own, and those of our predecessors. I am simply grateful that here, at least, the students and professors seem to get something that lawmakers still fail at.

Over the last two years that I have been in attendance here at Loyola, I have had many opportunities to express myself and my faith, my beliefs and my personal gnosis, this blog being one of them. As a pagan, I am in the minority here, in a sea of more traditional faith-paths, and yet I feel as valued and respected as any of my more traditional colleagues. It is the truest form of religious freedom, to be able to study how to bring Pastoral Counseling skills to a faith that does not have the centuries of established centers of learning and seminary enjoyed by more established churches. I enjoy this religious freedom. I revel in it every day as I attend classes, have discussions with my peers, and challenge the boundaries of established understandings of the universe and traditional views of our place within it. This is truly religious freedom done right.

It is my feeling that it is the atmosphere here at Loyola that America’s forefathers had in mind when they established a new country where faith was not mandated by the government, but was instead the freedom of every individual to keep to and live by as they saw fit. I hope that all of us here at Loyola will remember that when we step out of this world and into the larger one, so that through our practices we can spread our tolerance, acceptance and love to the larger world outside these doors, and let this country see what religious freedom truly means.

You readers may not realize that you are providing this grace to your fellow students, but believe that we have noticed receiving it, and are grateful.

 

Defining lives and careers: It goes both ways

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.
Confucius

In pastoral counseling at Loyola, students invest long hours preparing for the
diversity of clients who we will counsel during our clinical internship and afterwards in the “real” world. We learn to identify and treat depression, anxiety, trauma, and personality disorders. We learn how humans become who they are and the dynamics of family life. We investigate the insidious disease of addiction and avenues of therapy. We choose our theoretical approach to practice and how to integrate psychology and spirituality. When I took a class in career counseling, however, I puzzled about its usefulness in pastoral care.

Then, America found itself in a recession. Suddenly, my internship was full of clients who were unemployed and looking for more than self-esteem boosters. They knew why they felt bad and what would help them feel better: a job. I turned to Loyola affiliate faculty, Deb Rollison, Ph.D., who teaches career development, for some guidance.

The people who were having the hardest time finding employment were in their late 50’s and early 60’s. For these clients, Dr. Rollison recommends:

  • Do not put dates of graduation on resumes
  • Summarize work experience that is ten years or older
  • Reframe what older means by exploring advantages: experience, loyalty, fewer sick days, wisdom, and perspective
  • Think in terms of accomplishments, including volunteer experience; list 6 to 8 PAR key accomplishment statements that show:
    • Problem – what did you face?
    • Action – what did you do?
    • Results – what happened specifically and measurably?

Exploring your clients’ accomplishments, what they enjoy, and how they effectively managed difficult times in the past is key to helping people develop self-reliance and coping skills. I encourage and coach unemployed clients to talk about what they have done and why it mattered. This helps them sell themselves both to prospective employers and to themselves. It is a constant reminder of their self-worth.

AARP’s job hunting web page is a good resource for older Americans. America’s Career InfoNet is a gateway available to everyone to explore careers, State job banks, occupation and industry information, and much more.

The longer unemployment goes on, the more strain there will be on relationships, finances, and families. If you are counseling a person with a history of substance abuse, unemployment may be a trigger or a slippery place. I have helped clients with social services, fill out forms, identify their current assets and budgets, and find the closest AA meetings.

Deb Rollison put it very clearly: Career is not just a job but a whole life – it is leisure, priorities, and purpose. In helping others define their careers and make their lives whole, my career and life as a pastoral counselor become whole.

 

 

 

“Go Take a Walk!” – Constructing an Empowering Theological Response to Suffering with Dr. Jill Snodgrass

Dr. Jill at FDR Memorial - One of her Favorite Places

JoAnn:  How do you incorporate spirituality into your teaching?

Dr. Jill: In the Suffering class (PC732 Spiritual and Theological Dimensions of Suffering), we start with a song as a musical response to suffering. I am intentional with incorporating a devotional practice such as a time of silence and framing each class in a theological way. We have two lenses: our social science lens and our religion/spirituality/theology lens. We are in a constant dialectic between them. I think the two different languages are not striving toward the same thing – except health and wholeness. They need to be held in relationship with one another; through this creative tension we find even greater insight. This is integration of spirituality into pastoral care.

JoAnn: Do you identify with the Jesuit Way of Being?

Dr. Jill: Yes, absolutely!  Cura personalis and making men and women for others is what we are trying to do – to create servants. Many service opportunities exist on campus such as CCSJ. This summer I received a Kolvenbach Grant to implement a spiritual/vocational discernment to the job readiness curriculum at Marian House – a program for women with histories of addiction and/or incarceration. Loyola is the most spiritually nurturing place where I have studied with invitations to attend to my relationship with God. That is huge!

JoAnn:  Was there anything that surprised you about Loyola?

Dr. Jill:  I appreciate our students’ maturity and the sacrifices they have made to be here. I have taught at other institutions where the humility of being a graduate student isn’t present. Humility and responsibility are important in graduate work. I had a professor once who said that only less than 1 percent of the population gets to have higher learning, so if you do not feel blessed every day, stop. I think they have an attitude of gratitude and a commitment that I have not seen in any other institution.

JoAnn:  You teach the Suffering Course, Spiritual and Pastoral Care, Introduction to Pastoral Counseling, and what else?

Dr. Jill: I taught Crisis Intervention and this Fall I teach Group Spiritual Guidance.  I will teach Pastoral Care Professional Seminar next semester. That is the kind of work that really excites me; the dialogue between theory and practice, looking at a current ministry situation, turning to what we know about best practices and saying: what are we going to do?

JoAnn: What course do you enjoy teaching most?

Dr. Jill:  I love the Suffering class because it is constructive and fun. We are never going to find out why bad things happen to good people. It’s really fun to wrestle with that question; to dialogue with personal experience and what theologians have been saying for millennia. It’s an interfaith class, so we look at suffering from different faith perspectives. There’s a tragic-comedy element in it because we have to laugh in order to suffer; you need both sides of that coin. Also, we are partnering with Grass Roots here in Columbia. The students in the course work with women-parents and children there. It’s like that book we read this year — What shall we say? Evil, suffering, and the crisis of faith by Thomas G. Long –  that was saying solvitur ambulando: the answer to suffering is by walking. To take on that perspective is empowering in a paradoxical way and deeply spiritual because you give it all over to God. I am not going to fix the world’s suffering in a lifetime, but I take steps toward it.

Read more about Dr. Snodgrass.

Tiffany (Coons) O’Hara – An M.S. Graduate Success Story

JoAnn: What led you to Loyola’s Department of Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Care?

Tiffany: I got my undergraduate degree from Mt. Saint Mary’s and knew I wanted to stay in Maryland.  While looking for graduate programs in Clinical Psychology, I saw Pastoral Counseling, but I had no idea what it was. I researched it, and the more I learned about it, the more I realized that it was the perfect fit for me with its blend of psychology and spirituality. I was not comfortable pushing aside my faith in my career path. I discerned Loyola was a good fit for me.

JoAnn: How was it at Loyola?

Tiffany: I loved Loyola from day one!  Starting class with a prayer, meeting people from different faith backgrounds, experiencing everyone’s passion to help other people, and the way they integrate spirituality into their work was so inspiring for me from my first class to my last and now.

JoAnn: What were your most memorable experiences?

Tiffany: Dr. Sharon Cheston’s and Dr. Frank Richardson’s classes stood out for me. Family Counseling and Pastoral Integration were my favorite classes. The clinical portions of my studies were meaningful for me. Getting hands-on experience with different supervisors was extremely helpful.  Two years of internship gave me the confidence to go out into the workforce and know that I was ready.

JoAnn: Where did you do your internships?

Tiffany: My first one was at St. Francis Academy, a Catholic High School in Baltimore, and the second year I was at Lighthouse Youth and Family Services. I had a practicum supervisor, an on-site supervisor, and a small group supervisor in my first internship and two supervisors in my second.  I learned so much from all of them and would advise students to make the most of the supervision that they receive.

JoAnn: I heard you got married, bought a new house, went on your first ever cruise for a honeymoon, got a new dog, wrote the Professional Seminar paper, and got a new job!  How did you juggle it all?

Tiffany: Through the grace of God!  And, with very supportive family/friends and self-care. I did a lot of knitting and crocheting blankets/scarves. I prayed and journaled. I had a “keep my eyes on the prize” mentality.  Everything that happened, while stressful, was a positive thing, so that helped.  Knowing that I was called to be a counselor helped me to get through the program.

JoAnn: How was the job hunting process?

Tiffany: I started job hunting my second to last semester before I graduated. Perhaps I was a bit pre-emptive, but I am glad I did. The process was frustrating and discouraging! I put out so many resumes and only got only two bites. I was in a catch-22 situation. I had not yet graduated or gotten my license. I interviewed with Contemporary Family Services. I told them I wanted to be a school-based counselor and they were looking for a counselor for their charter schools in Baltimore. They offered me the job on the spot! I will start as soon as my LGPC (Licensed Graduate Professional Counselor) certification is completed.

JoAnn: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Tiffany: I am thankful, grateful, and blessed to have gone through the program, graduated, and to be where I am now.  I enjoyed my years at Loyola in the PC
Program
and I miss it much more than I thought I would.