News and Updates: October 2015

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Where GRE Led Me: "An Additional Ministry: Spiritual Direction" by Joe Walters

I left institutional church as a college freshman in 1968. Thirty or so years later, a young couple asked me to be their daughter’s godparent. I went to a class for godparents, and learned that I had to be a practicing Catholic to be a godparent. I returned to my local parish. Later, I became a member of the RCIA team. I felt inadequate as a facilitator. In 2008, I saw an ad in America magazine for on-line learning opportunities at the GSRRE.  Initially, I enrolled in the Certificate in Faith Formation program. With Dr. Cataldos encouragement. I switched to the MA in Pastoral Care after taking her Psychology and Religion class. Fordham awarded me the MA in 2012. I concurrently completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education, which Dr. Cataldo also introduced to me. I became a certified Catholic chaplain in 2013, and work part time at the University of Oklahoma medical center in the Pastoral Care department. I am now living near the Fordham campus and finishing class work towards a DMin. in Christian Spirituality. I have the blessed opportunity to participate in a Practicum in Spiritual Direction this year. This ministry is a natural outgrowth of my experience and training as a chaplain: to explore deeply with another person the way that God loves them and is working in their lives. It is very gratifying and rewarding to apply the substantive knowledge of scripture, ecclesiology, history of Christian spirituality and reflective methodologies and techniques that I learned in my courses at Fordham in my chaplain work and in my new ministry as a spiritual director. I have the capacity to work with a few new directees and welcome inquiries from members of our community.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Divinely Inspired by Diocesan Pilgrimage: GRE Student Joyce Mennona Reflects

Last Month, I was among a group of pilgrims attending the Passion Play in Sordevolo, Italy, with the Diocese of Brooklyn. We were blessed to have as our spiritual leaders: Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto, Msgr. Steven Aguggia, pastor of St. Margaret Church, Middle Village, and Father Gerard Sauer, diocesan pilgrimage director.
There were 24 of us from various parts of the diocese who came together as a small community, yet part of a larger, universal Church. It was uplifting to travel through Italy and be reminded of the history, saints and traditions of the Catholic Church. Churches were filled with tourists, there were murals of the Blessed Mother randomly displayed through the streets and during lunch, waiters would ask our priests for blessings.
Upon arrival, we began our journey together with Mass at the Church of St. Peter’s in Chains, Rome, where Bishop Chappetto was the main celebrant. The Gospel reading was the parable of the old and new wineskins from St. Luke. Bishop Chappetto shared the importance of this passage, inviting us to be open to God’s will. He prompted us to consider in what way the pilgrimage would change us.
It was a gift to be in such a holy place, where the busyness of day-to-day life is suspended and time can be better spent in prayer.
In fact, it is important that time is suspended because once jet lag sets in, you’re exhausted. Exhausted as I was, I knelt at the Scala Sancta, or Holy Stairs, imagining Jesus’ exhaustion on His Way to the Cross. The steps, believed to be purchased by St. Helen and brought to Rome, are said to be the steps that led to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate, the steps Jesus walked during His Passion. Needless to say, at the thought of Jesus standing there, exhausted from the agony, scourging and weight of our sins, I was overwhelmed by what He has done, and continues to do for me – for us.
Another stop on the pilgrimage was Assisi, where the physical terrain of hills and valleys reminded me so much of life and Sacred Scripture – how sometimes we are in a valley, but many times we are on top of the mountain. This pilgrimage was certainly time spent on top of the mountain.
Deeply moved before the tomb of St. Francis, my mind was flooded with faces of people who have helped me in my life. How many of them were people from church! Yes, this was a personal experience; nevertheless it happened because I was able to take part in this event and was reminded at the onset to be open to conversion.
At the culmination of our 11 days together, we were each given a San Damiano pendant. We also received a book about the San Damiano Cross. Divinely inspired, it is actions such as these that remind me how much love our Heavenly Father has for us and that what we experience here on earth is just a glimpse of what is to come.
Although we don’t always have the opportunity to physically visit a place, we do have the opportunity to spend time in prayer, to actively seek out people who will nourish us spiritually and to be open to God’s will.

The author, Joyce Mennona is a current GRE student and is the religious education director at Resurrection-Ascension parish, Rego Park. 
This article was originally published by The Tablet on October 8, 2015. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Classroom Conversation: Fr. Obiezu visits GRE class "Evangelization: Faith and Culture"

In late September, our “Evangelization: Faith and Culture” class was honored to host Rev. Dr. Emeka Obiezu, OSA, as guest speaker. Fr. Obiezu, an Augustinian priest, is the author of Towards a Politics of Compassion: Socio-Political Dimensions of Christian Responses to Suffering, and the vice-chair of the NGO Committee on Migration at the United Nations. An experienced theologian and advocate for the wellbeing of migrants globally, he led the class in discussion of Pope Francis’ recent visit to the United States, and in particular his address to the General Assembly of the United Nations. Fr. Obiezu suggested that Pope Francis’ approach to his pontificate was well-exemplified at the UN as the long-awaited enactment of the promise of the Second Vatican Council in the Catholic Church’s engagement with contemporary society, and as grounded theologically in Pope Francis’ “cosmic theological anthropology,” his understanding of humans as part of a network of life far beyond human and even planetary existence. From this vantage, the Christian sensitivity to incarnation, Fr. Obiezu emphasized, gains a profoundly relational, environmentally-aware, and cosmologically-aware feeling for reality and how to live in it. This discussion was a natural bridge to a class conversation about Fr. Obiezu’s book, which students had read in preparation for his visit. In Towards a Politics of Compassion, Fr. Obiezu argues from his Nigerian cultural perspective that compassion can be an effective vehicle for Christians to make the necessary changes in everyday life and social structures that are needed in Nigeria today. Compassion is grounded in human experience of sharing suffering with the other in a way that is also always caught up in a “politics” of response--such that real-world choices must be made about the effectiveness of expressing that compassion. Resources from the Catholic teaching tradition and from Nigerian religion and culture point to wise ways of being compassionate in a way that are true to human experience and effective for the social changes Nigeria needs. We were grateful for Fr. Obiezu so generously sharing his experience and work with us.