May 13, 2019
Student Government President, Meghan Stretar, addresses incoming students.
Convocation kicked off the first day of the 2019-2020 school year, as members of Saint John’s University gathered in the Abbey Church to welcome the undergraduate students and School of Theology and Seminary’s graduate students.
The community heard from Meghan Stretar, Master of Divinity candidate and President of the School of Theology and Seminary Student Government. Stretar prepared students for the new academic year with an address centered around the questions: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And later: “Who is God calling you to become? Who is God calling you to become here [at Saint John’s]?”
Stretar spoke of her own experience grappling with those very questions, describing her journey that brought her to the graduate school:
“I want[ed] to be an elementary school teacher…it’s what I’ve always wanted to be, what I’ve imagined myself doing since I was little. . . .
I continued on my way, figuring out how to navigate campus, diving into my classes, making new friends, and adjusting to living away from home. I’ve always been an avid planner, so within that first month, my four-year-plan was set. And, again, it seemed so simple: FOLLOW THE PLAN.
Of course, you probably already know how this goes.
I failed at following my plan. I changed my mind. I thought I could minor in Spanish, or maybe even theology, but then I started thinking…where should I study abroad? Did I actually want to be an elementary teacher? This thought floated through my mind often. Over my four years at Saint Ben’s, I continued to ask questions and I changed my mind constantly, searching for opportunities that seemed to point me to a more authentic version of myself.
That first theology course, in retrospect was a nudge from God. As I’ve had the space to reflect back on my time, I realize I had many nudges: meeting my Benedictine friend, deciding to study abroad in South Africa, my recovery from a concussion, the capstone ethics course I took, my three-year-long internship as a teaching fellow in St. Paul, a month in Guatemala, accepting a teaching job in St. Paul, and ultimately deciding to leave that job because the nudge to come back to Saint John’s wouldn’t leave me alone.”
Drawing on a Biblical example of a prophet experiencing a nudge to draw closer to God, Stretar continued:
“When Jeremiah the prophet was called by God, he responded by saying, ‘I am too young, I do not know how to speak!’ But God, of course, being God, told him not to worry, and instead to trust in this plan set before him. Even with this plan, however, Jeremiah’s choices still held critical importance. This is maybe even more difficult than simply listening: deciding what to do after we acknowledge the nudge. It is part of our human capacity to discern how God chooses to work in and out of the particulars of our lives, to acknowledge who in our lives helps us see these particulars, those who tell us not to be afraid to jump into the unknown.
Where Stretar’s speech opened with the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, she expanded that question to highlight the need to follow the nudge or answer the call from God before welcoming the students to the new academic year.
“So, it seems to me that we’ve been asking and answering the wrong question. Instead of trying to answer the question, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP, what we really should be looking to answer instead is this: who is God calling you to become? Who is God calling you to become here?
With that, it is my pleasure to welcome you all on behalf of the Graduate School of Theology and Seminary (as both a Bennie and a Johnnie) to this incredible place. I hope all of us here can continue finding our sense of place.”