I began writing about the way that I taught high school students about God’s call and vocation, only to realize that beginning with my own story made more sense. A question that I continue to ask is “Where does God call me?”
I started going to a Catholic school in the fifth grade. I attended a different Catholic school for seventh and eighth grade and although there were elements I liked, I wrote about the attack of scruples I experienced in another article.
High school in my all-girls school was special. There were cliques, of course, but it is interesting how those broke down by senior year and more so at class reunions. We were in a convent school and had cloistered sisters who were very kind. Since the school has been in operation since 1799, there are many generations of grandmothers, mothers, daughters, aunts, and nieces who are part of the alumnae. My great aunt was a sister there before my time so I had a connection too.
I was ten or so when President Carter came into office, and I always held him in high esteem. He wowed me by his direct efforts in the 1978 Camp David Accords to make peace between Egypt and Israel. After his time in office, he continued to promote peace and well-being through the creation of the Carter Center. His focus on human rights and fair elections made me want to go into government service. I was accepted into a foreign service program in college.
I liked the professors and curriculum for foreign service. I came to think, however, that to make a difference in the world, one might have to schmooze with the right people and step on some heads. If schmoozing were a class, I would receive an F.
I did like my classes in Theology, English, and Philosophy. No schmoozing seemed necessary in these areas. I switched to a Theology major and English minor and graduated with a BA.
High School Teaching
When I was an undergraduate, I thought that I wanted to pursue a PhD in Theology but I felt like taking a break from academia. I got a job teaching Catholic theology in a high school days before school began. What an adventure! Luckily, near the end of the year, I had a better handle on what teaching meant as I was learning day to day.
Move to Washington
After this first year, I decided that I wanted to move to the West Coast, preferably Western Washington. Despite obstacles, everything clicked into place and I spent two years in a Jesuit co-ed school that I liked tremendously.
The principal wanted me to get a degree in religious education. If I went back to school, I wanted to be in an MA or a PhD program. So, I moved and attended the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. The people and classes were great!
My Trouble (with the Library)
The Graduate Theological Union is a great place, a group of schools representing different Christian denomination, and at the time, centers for non-Christian religions. I found that I had a hard time researching in the library: I became ancy, distracted, and I missed fresh air. I knew that they could not open windows because they needed to protect the books. I just could not take the stuffiness. (If I could have done research online like I can now, I might have continued on to a PhD.) I was at a crossroads. My idea of pursuing an MA and then a PhD had been challenged.
I took a leave and did some informational interviews with people in law to see if perhaps that was a direction I could go. My previous principal invited me to substitute for a teacher on medical leave. She taught and mentored a class in community service. The students had class once a week and then went to their placements the other days. When I had more time to prepare, I enjoyed working on the curriculum. Some lesson plans I created on my own and some I adapted from the program.
Finishing the MA
I decided to return to Berkeley and complete my MA . I still did not like the library but enjoyed writing papers and my thesis. I felt like being there was the right thing and that maybe my temperament was not suited to PhD work.
I returned to Washington. I then taught for two years at an all-girls high school that reminded me of my own high school years. My commute, however, was signficant. During that time, I was married and became pregnant. Living so far away from a job was impractical with a baby so I resigned. I felt confident I was doing the right thing and would find some good work.
From this point forward, my career decisions were based primarily on the way that they could support my marriage and parenting. I was blessed to work from home for many years with a flexible schedule.
The reality of unemployment, I found, is that on the one hand, I am not making money but on the other hand, opportunities arise that might I might have missed had I not been free to take them. I worked off-site for a Catholic publishing house on high school theology curriculum as a writer/editor for over ten years and I loved it. I felt God had called me to this work. When I left, I started freelancing with another publisher and then worked on high school curriculum for five years with them. By that point, my daughter was ready for college, and I was ready to work outside of the house.
I have always been a huge fan of Catholic schools because of my education, my daughter’s schooling, and my experience as a teacher and editor. A local Catholic elementary school needed a development director, so I applied and took that job. I enjoyed that one as well and stayed for four years.
Throughout my adult life, from college onwards, I have felt that each step I have taken has built on the prior decision. First I changed majors, then I earned an MA in theology. Using my theology background and teaching experience, I wrote and edited curriculum. Lastly, I worked in a Catholic school to help it grow financially. This time I feel unsure about my direction and how God is calling me. It is not as if I have been completely sure what I was doing along the way, but all seemed to work out in the end.
Where does God call me now? I do not think that I am so vital to God’s plan that God will specify one job versus another. I would like a job where I can use my skills and experience to serve people and make their lives better. Meanwhile, however, my mother is descending into dementia and needs more of my time. How will this responsibility fit with a career choice?
St. John Baptist de la Salle is the patron saint of teachers. At one point, he was pushed out as the head of the religious order he founded. He must have wondered what God had in mind. I probably should spend more time asking God about my own situation.