New Beginnings

By David Gosling

Two weeks ago I served as a volunteer “buddy” at Camp Me Too, a wonderful weekend event that brings bereaved children into community. Each of these kids lost a family member to disease or tragedy in recent years. Although I was assigned to work with a single boy, I quickly found myself bonding with most of the campers in one way or another. In my experience, they seemed very much like normal, happy children. It was only later on in the weekend—as the staff and buddies encouraged them to open up about their experiences and emotions—that these remarkably resilient boys and girls spoke about the ordeals through which they lived at such an early age.

Listening to their stories, it occurred to me that most of these kids didn’t know just how remarkable they were. To lose a father to the violence of the streets, or a mother to drugs, or a sibling to disease…and then spring back into the full joy and vivacity of youth in such a short time…I had a very difficult time imagining my ability to conjure a similar response in their place, even as an adult. It was a humbling and valuable lesson to learn.

As spring finally bursts forth after a long and arduous winter season, it is the time for new beginnings in our lives. I pray that we may each harness the energy of these children in our own lives. May we, too, find that beauty of simplicity in our daily routines. May we, too, face each new day with courage and optimism. May we, too, learn to laugh in the face of adversity, knowing that the Provider of All Things will eventually bring each and every one of us Home.

May – What’s Happening Blog

by Nicole Snyder

Happy Tuesday Meaning Making Readers!

Continuing this month in Meaning Making we have included the summaries of a few events you might have missed in April and a list of events coming up in May. If you have something you would like included for June’s addition, please let us know!  Enjoy and thanks for reading!

What you might have missed in April:

April 2nd: at 9am Ph.D. Candidate Latoya Moss had her Final Defense titled: Survivors of Personal and Professional Trauma: Exploring the Lived Experience and Continuous Career Decision of Female Clergy Diagnosed with Cancer.  If you’d like to learn more about her work, she can be reached at: lsmoss@loyola.edu

April 3: at 2pm Ph.D. Candidate Paul Deal had his final defense.  His dissertation was titled: Sanctification Within the Middle Ground: Narrative Phenomenology of How Nature Becomes Sacred.  If you’d like to know more about his work, he can be reached at: pjdeal@loyola.edu

May 1: Dr. Christine Berger led a discussion about the interplay between counseling and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).  Some CAM modalities mentioned were healing touch, Reiki, body scanning, and meditation.  If you are interested on this topic and unable to make it, Dr. Berger has some suggested readings.  She can be reached at: ccberger@loyola.edu.

Coming up:

May 2: Jeffreys Institute for the Study of Loss and Bereavement in co-sponsorship with The Maryland Psychological Association are offering 2 workshops (one morning and one afternoon) for CEs at Loyola Columbia Campus (questions: Dr. Shep Jeffreys 443-956-9480/  jeffreys3@verizon.net)

May 16: Loyola Pastoral Counseling Department will host the Pastoral Counselors Graduate Reception at the Columbia Sheraton Hotel from 6-8pm. (Registration: register online http://alumni.loyola.edu/pc_grad_reception; questions: Brenda Helsing (bhelsing@loyola.edu).

May 17: GRADUATION! – Loyola’s 162nd Commencement Ceremony will be held at Baltimore Arena (201 W. Baltimore Street) on Saturday, May 17th. Doors will open at 9 a.m. and the processional will begin at 10:45 a.m. The Commencement program begins promptly at 11 a.m. A live stream of the Commencement Exercises will be available at the following link: www.loyola.edu/commencement. Congratulations to all graduates!

Coming Out of Winter

by Rev. Shelly M. Mohnkern

“A second characteristic of the process which for me is the good life, is that it involves an increasingly tendency to live fully in each moment. I believe it would be evident that for the person who was fully open to his new experience, completely without defensiveness, each moment would be new.”

Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person, 1961

This winter has left me with a curious habit; one that I assume will fade as spring takes a firm hold. Each morning when I get up, I immediately go to the window, and peek outside to make certain that winter is actually staying gone. There has not been any white on the ground in over a week. Check. The temperature is staying above freezing, even at night. Check. The daffodils are starting to open. Check. Breathe deeply, and relax.

Never was Carl Rogers more right about new moments than this past winter. No matter the forecast, no matter the previous few days’ temperature, no matter the date on the calendar, one could wake up to a white wonderland and a houseful of homebound children. There was little the authorities could do to predict the actual event. They could guess, they could speculate, they could even look at the data of the past, and project. But weather is still not an exact science, and sometimes it will simply go in ways that surprise us, for ill or for good.

For me this has been a parallel to what I am learning about the fascinating subject of mind-body-heart interactions, and what we, as humans, do with them. We are not an exact science either… we embody Spirit, and through Spirit, we are Mystery. There is not a way to categorize us down to base predictable mechanisms. We cannot fully know what the next moment will bring, for ourselves or for those we attempt to help and care for. All we can do is Be, and Be With.

It is first important to Be. We need to be present and aware, of ourselves and the world around us. We must learn to take in as much as we can, and experience it. We may not understand it all, but we can take it in. We can learn and adapt as things change, and store and reflect on the things we did not understand, and learn from them as well. We can become aware of our own Mystery.

Then we can Be With. As counselors, we learn the importance of empathy. It is mentioned in almost every class we take. We can Be With our clients, even when we are not 100% sure what is going on with them. We can reach out with our understanding, and be there with them, gaining knowledge from every work, every movement, and every silence. We can make them feel accompanied, no longer alone in their own understanding or confusion about their condition. We can share somewhat in their Mystery, and share a bit of our own.

We can move out of winter and into spring. We might still have to look out the window for a while, to assure ourselves we are moving forward, but eventually, Spring will arrive.

May all of you enjoy this season of rebirth, and awakening, and find your own amidst the Sacred. Blessings!

Emerge

by Andrea Noel

Emerge, according to dictionary.com, means to rise or come forth into notice, view, or existence. During springtime buds emerge on naked trees and flowers emerge out of those buds. In the spring, new life emerges.

This spring I am emerging into a new sense of self. The fall and winter seasons were times of deep contemplation about what it means to be authentically and fully who God created me to be. Listening to my heart, being present to deep feelings, noticing my intuition, and reflecting on past decisions helped me get reacquainted with me!

Over the last six months, I grew more familiar with my feelings, desires, fears, strengths and growing edges. I considered what external aspects of my life were not congruent with my internal sense of being and even realized that much of my life is spent living according to societal, familial or external exceptions, even expectations that did not fully resonate with my spirit. In the past, I made some decisions based on the affirmation and validation of things outside of me. All these years, all thirty of them, I made life choices that were mere reflections and interpretations of what others wanted for me.

This year I am choosing from within. As buds emerge, inviting flowers to bloom, I am living the life that reflects my inner most being. This spring I emerge, accepting who I am and living authentically. This spring I emerge courageously as who God created me to be. As we all anticipate lasting signs of spring, consider how you will emerge out of this prolonged season of stillness.

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.

 

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

 

Before You Begin

By Kate Gerwin

With the PC Open House coming up next week, thought I would put together a list of a few things I would tell anyone starting the MS program.

  1. Let the process unfold in its own time. Two and a half years and no more. That’s how long I wanted the program to take me when I first started. I was, by necessity, working full-time so even though this rich, growth producing experience may need more time to evolve in me, that fact was secondary to my desire to get it done. As it stands, I am slated to graduate in May of 2015, five and a half years after I started. And I wouldn’t have changed a thing. The “extra” time it took wasn’t extra at all—it was vital space for me to learn, integrate, question, play and grow. So if you are like me and find yourself anxious to be finished before you have even started, take heart! The process will take the time it needs to, no more, no less.
  2. Get involved.  I had the great fortune of attending Loyola Maryland (at that time Loyola College) as an undergrad and one of the things I appreciated most about my choice is how many opportunities I was presented with to get involved in campus life and other activities. When I started grad school however, I was working full-time, living far from campus and like many grad students, really pressed for time. In the last year or so, I have become slowly become more involved with the Pastoral Counseling community and it has been very rewarding. Even something as simple as meeting up with classmates for a cup of coffee can help you feel more connected and invested and is well worth the time you think you don’t have.
  3. Save Stuff! In fact, save everything! For one thing, you will need to have all of your syllabi to qualify for licensure. For another, you never know what kind of insight you will glean from that one little hastily scribbled note down the line when you are actually practicing in the counseling field.
  4. Plan Backwards. When I started the program, it was all I could do to register for one class—the thought of planning out what classes I would be taking the next semester, or the next year seemed way too overwhelming! I quickly learned however, that the best way to move forward is to plan backwards. As I learned what classes were offered when and got a sense of my overall “plan”, it became easier to see where I stood in the bigger picture and keep myself on track towards my graduation goal.
  5. Find a peer advisor—or a whole team of them. As great as Advisors are, the reality of office hours and schedules makes meeting regularly somewhat difficult. It’s definitely in your best interest to get to know some individuals who are further along in their journey and glean whatever information and insight you can from them. They can be invaluable resources for helping you navigate everything from what classes to take to helping you through the major challenge of clinicals.
  6. Take your own therapy seriously. While I have always valued therapy, I must admit I saw the 20 hour requirement as a bit of a chore when I first started—one more thing to fit into my busy schedule. As I grew in the program however and things started coming up for me however, my own therapy has been key in the process of evolving my identity as a counselor and a person. I think it is one of the best parts of Loyola’s program, so don’t short change yourself!
  7. Network Now. You never know if your “first friend” in Intro to Pastoral Counseling could later become a link to a job down the line! The program is just as much about developing your own professional identity as it is knowing the material, and networking is a key—and very practical—part of that process.

And most of all, as strange as it sounds, HAVE FUN!

Lighting the Winter Candle

by Shelly Mohnkern

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”

Carl Jung, 1963

Winter:  The time of reflection, introspection, and thought;  the fallow time of the mind between semesters. We rest, but we are not still. We fill our days not with books and research and long hours at the library, but with family, food and fellowship. We prepare to re-engage in our scholarship by shopping for books, and supplies, thinking about our schedules, and waiting for the syllabi that will direct our efforts over the next five months. We reflect on the past year, and make resolutions for the upcoming one.

This is the time where we re-kindle Jung’s light, the light that will shine through us for the rest of the year.

I find myself looking inward, seeking that light within me, and searching for the knowledge I will need to nourish the flame to its brightest life. There are so many facets of that light. Much like the human housing it, it takes many different nutrients for the light to thrive and burn brightly. My light thrives on such lofty things as charity work, prayer, helping my tribe-of-choice, spiritual practice, and learning. It also thrives on more mundane pleasures like reading fiction, movies, time spent with children playing, vocal music, and indulging my theatrical side with role-play gaming. I give joy and receive it gratefully. I take “me time” and permit myself to be indulgent. It is a balance between doing for others, letting others do for me, and occasionally doing for myself.

Soon I return to classes. I’m excited and nervous.  I can’t wait to be learning again. In fact, I marvel at the idea that some folks stop learning, feeling they have already gleaned all they can from academic study. I came back to school later in life, and I marvel at all I have learned so far, and the horizons of learning yet to be achieved. I see my light begin to burn brighter, adding itself to the light of my peers, fed by the light of my instructors, the authors of our texts, and the scholarship of those who have gone before me.

Shine on, and shine well. The dark times are passing, now is the time of light.

An Advent of Humanity – No Cape Necessary

by Dayna Pizzigoni

What does it mean to have a God that was born in a manger and died on a cross? About five years ago I wrote this question in an untitled notebook on a page without a date. As my spiritual community closes our liturgical year with Christ our King on the cross and begins our celebration of Advent, I ponder this question and its personal meaning in my faith journey again.

The reality of a God born in a barn and murdered after healing the sick and feeding the hungry means that Jesus was not a super hero. He participated in the messiness of humanity. I need to remember that if God did not step into the world as a super hero then She probably doesn’t expect me to be a super hero (despite how fun it might be to have super powers as a doctoral student).

I am a human being. God does not expect me to be perfect. He intentionally did not give me a super hero cape. My humanity, like my need for rest and play, is not a flaw. The most significant joy I will celebrate, pain I will suffer, and contribution I will offer the world will be done cape-less-ly as a regular human.

Now it must be said that sometimes we, as humans, do put on wonderful capes of determination and resilience. Single fathers, abuse survivors, refugees, and struggling students probably have made good use of metaphorical capes. It is beautiful how we can survive, stretch, and grow, but this strength becomes a liability when our expectations for ourselves become too high. We are not made to be “on” and heroic all the time. Following Christ is not about being a super hero. It is about being fully human.

There is nothing as tempting as a doctoral program to make me wish I could be a super hero; however, doctoral classes are not crises. I do not need a cape for my courses. I need to plan for adequate time to do my work and trust my intelligence. My studies call me not to heroism, but to humility with which work and be ever grateful for the privilege of higher education.

This Advent I hope to contemplate the beauty of our limited humanity. I can honor the holiness of my humanity and humbly invite Christ into the Bethlehem of my heart this Advent. Jesus will be ok in the messiness of my fragile humanity. After all, He was born in a manger and died on a cross.

Chin up, graduated

There are a hundred thousand songs about saying goodbye . . . or not saying goodbye .  .  .  or don’t say goodbye . . .

I’m trying to keep my chin up, JoAnn, but I feel this little empty space where your words were supposed to be. I know they will be filled with Glenda’s and Kate’s and Andrea’s and Vernon’s words and thoughts abundantly rich with our spiritual and pastoral connections, but your words have made meaning in my life since the inception of Meaning Making.

I knew you and I were going to get along well when I found out your journey to Loyola included Texas where I was born. Our footsteps have shared some of the same paths like Loyola’s Spring Retreat, but you have ventured into bigger worlds.

Your last posting reached out and touched someone so deeply, that person has already been profoundly changed within. You led me to resiliency and taught me about the free-form of spiritual direction. You are not afraid to meet and greet the difficult issues. You shared your lessons about mystery, humility, and self-care.

But now you‘ve gone and graduated – a place where all of us bloggers plan to be someday. It’s not like “graduated” is a foreign country. Graduated still allows the privilege of visiting. I hope you will still come, read us and share your wisdom.

Graduated inherently implies that you are finished and complete with this particular place in your life and ready to move on. Graduated closes a door while it simultaneously opens another and brings you to a moment where you can say “here I begin anew.”

Graduated brings the coveted title of “professional.” It means that people will seek you out because they require a knowledgeable person who has wisdom to help them.

They will have chosen well.

Be happy, JoAnn. Live long and prosper.