A Student in the Lord's Service

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November 20, 2017

Maria Siebels, MTS candidate, Class of 2019

And so we are going to establish a school for the service of the Lord. 

(Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue)

While walking through the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat India, my eyes were drawn to an enlarged and untidy handwritten scrawl on a marble slab. “My life is my message” was Gandhi’s response to the people of India in 1942, and those words have resonated with me since. I wanted to bring the authenticity, beauty, and, ultimately, the mystery of theology in its rawest sense to those I am invited to love.

Amidst the chaos of my senior year as a Religious Studies and Theology undergraduate at Loras College, I sifted through graduate program after graduate program trying to decide where I would pursue my masters in Theological studies and make my life my message. Between the countless sips (pots) of coffee and program descriptions, I stumbled upon the words of Benedict: “And so we are going to establish a school for the service of the Lord” and immediately did a double-take. Just as before when I felt the words of Gandhi strike my core, so too did the words of Benedict.

Was I making this critical decision for my education as an act of service for the Lord?

Was service how I was going to make my life my mission?     

If so, where could I make these two callings a reality?

After months of searching it was not until I found the Masters of Theological Studies program at Saint John’s University School of Theology that I felt both the desire of making my life my mission and call of service answered. I started at the School of Theology in August of 2017 as a first-year graduate student studying Systematic Theology with aspirations of pursuing my Ph.D. It was clear to me within days of arriving that Saint John's lives by the words proclaimed in the Vatican II document on Missionary Activity, Ad Gentes. The bishops write; “[Missionaries] should apply themselves with special care to the education of children and young people… and these are meant to be a service of great value to all people.” (AG, 12)  Here at Saint John’s, whether it be through the joyful rigor of my courses, the close-knit and stable Benedictine community, or the Holy Spirit-driven wisdom of the esteemed faculty who model selfless service every day, I not only feel encouraged and inspired in this place of rich Catholic tradition, but also blessed by the countless opportunities to live out my life’s mission.  

I have the privilege to serve as the Director of Retreats in the Saint John’s Campus Ministry Office. My role is to daily serve alongside undergraduate Saint John’s and Saint Benedict students to uplift and strengthen the larger community.  Just recently we completed our First Year Retreat Experience (FYRE) where we strove to share the Gospel message, Benedictine practices, to build authentic and intentional relationships, and show the strength of the CSB/SJU community to over 100 undergraduate student attendees. I now look onward to the next opportunity to minister with students through my gained theological understanding and developing pastoral experience.

As summed up in our mission statement: “We dedicate ourselves to a life-long pursuit of wisdom so we might progress in Christian faith and ‘run on the paths of God’s commandments, our hearts expanding with the inexpressible delight of love’ (Prologue, RB)." We here at the School of Theology serve one another through our exceptional academic pursuits, shared liturgies, communal meals, and through the intentional relationships, we pursue together in our rich and diverse walks with Christ. I have found the place to foster my mission of a well-lived Christian life, and I encourage you to join me.