You know me, and I know you, so let us walk together

When I first started at Marquette last fall, I was unsure of how the year would go. I felt a bit like a fish out of water, the only one on staff wearing sundresses and flip-flops to the office in that month before the students arrived. Having spent most of my life in Southern California and having become accustomed to the rhythms of the East Coast more recently, I wondered how I would do in the Midwest. As I made my way through the transition, I have grown increasingly grateful for the incredible opportunity to accompany young adult Catholics on their journeys with their faith.

They breathed life into the research that Kate and I had been doing over the last year for this project, but it was more than that, too. They invited me into their lives for a brief while, allowing me to walk with them through a year of their college experience. These young people offered me the privilege of being able to learn about how they express their Catholicism–at Mass in the Chapel of the Holy Family every Sunday night; at the protest against the School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, GA; at the foundation of what will become a rural church in Sunday Wood, Belize; in feminist reading circles like the Women’s Wisdom group; at the Reel Poverty Film Festival in the Annex; in forums about the Day of Silence and a vigil remembering those who have been killed because of their sexual orientation beneath the bridge at Raynor Library; on the route throughout the city, marching for immigrant rights–and supporting them as they helped some of these events happen. It was a reminder that the research about young adult Catholics is more than just words on a page; the black-and-white typeface is trying to tell the story of a deeper reality, much more beautiful and much more complicated than academic language may be able to convey.

I leave Milwaukee, much richer with memories, much more filled with grace than when I arrived last summer. With me I carry the stories of women like Gretchen, who served as my supervisor and my sounding board throughout the year. Women of prayer and activism like Theresa, Laura, and Hannah who stand firmly in their truth. The students who rode in Gerry’s van throughout our trip to Belize, sharing their joys and their challenges with one another. Women of spirit like Gretchen, Claire, Alicia, and Erin who were unafraid to question our tradition’s approach to our gender. Young men of vision like Mike and JT who seem to understand that beauty and justice need each other. People of conscience like Janice, Matt, Nick, Megan, and Tara. The young people of the Gay-Straight Alliance who welcomed me without question into their circle. Students like Kate and Andrew who shared their stories with me along the route to Veterans’ Park. To these people who have walked this length of the road with me, I say thank you. I return to Cambridge armed with a grateful heart, committed anew to simplicity and nonviolence, with more questions than when I left.

peace,

jen

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