Rev. Gregory Schenden, S.J., Director of Campus Ministry

Fr Greg Schenden

Dear Members of the Campus Community:

I am very pleased to share that Rev. Gregory Schenden, S.J. is now serving in a new role as Director of Campus Ministry. In this position, Fr. Schenden will work with me to deepen Georgetown’s Catholic and Jesuit identity and guide our vibrant multi-faith campus ministry in its mission to accompany our students on their spiritual journey and to equip them to lead lives of deeper meaning, belonging and purpose.

An ordained Jesuit priest, Fr. Schenden has served as Georgetown’s senior Roman Catholic chaplain since 2014. Prior to his arrival at Georgetown, Fr. Schenden gained a variety of teaching and ministry experience at the high school and college levels, including roles at Holy Trinity Catholic Church here in Washington, D.C.; Gonzaga College High School also in D.C.; and St. Agnes Parish in San Francisco, CA.

A graduate of John Carroll University, Fr. Schenden was ordained in 2008 at Fordham University Church by His Eminence Edward Cardinal Egan, Archbishop of New York. Fr. Schenden earned his M.A. in Philosophy from Loyola University Chicago, and his M.Div. from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley.

Fr. Schenden shares my deep commitment to Georgetown’s Catholic and Jesuit mission, and many members of the Georgetown community have personal experience with his dedication to serving the pastoral and spiritual needs of students, faculty and staff.

I want to express my gratitude to the staff of Campus Ministry, the members of the Jesuit community and others across the university who have supported the discernment process leading to this appointment.

Please join me in congratulating Fr. Schenden and wishing him the very best as he begins in this new role.

Sincerely,
Rev. Mark Bosco, S.J., Ph.D.
Vice President for Mission and Ministry

 

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Finding community in Amman, Jordan

Grace is serving a meal at Caritas

Grace (red t-shirt) serving Iftar alongside other Caritas volunteers to hundreds of refugees, orphans, and the Princess of Jordan.

Grace Rector, SFS ’21  is spending her summer in Amman, Jordan volunteering at a Caritas, a Catholic Charities Organization. Here, Grace shares her reflection of her first weeks abroad.

Months ago, I applied to be a volunteer intern through NGOabroad and I could not be happier with my placement.

I’ve been studying Arabic informally for three years now, and I’ve become fascinated with the language and the history of the Middle East. I knew I wanted to work in a country in that region doing non-profit work, and it just so happened that Caritas needed a volunteer. Caritas is a Catholic Charities Organization devoted to providing resources to mainly Syrian refugees as well as poor Jordanians. Being in an environment in which everyone is Catholic during Ramadan is an interesting experience. Outside our office, everything is dead quiet. The normally lively restaurants are closed so, my colleagues and I sit in the kitchen at the center and eat together.  I am three weeks into my internship and I have grown close to a lot of my coworkers. I already feel like a part of the organization.

Grace is teaching students English

Grace is teaching a third grade English class

I love the camaraderie that I have encountered in the workplace here in Amman. Everyone is so interconnected and is friendly with everyone in the office. Every day around 11 a.m., we gather in the kitchen to share warm pita, Labneh, and a spice called Zaeter. Although I cannot understand most of the discussion it is great for me to simply listen to the Arabic dialect in hopes of learning something. There is also something special about working at a Catholic NGO. Mercy and forgiveness are at the forefront of everything they do which is amazing to be a part of. Another unique aspect of the organization that I like is that the people, the beneficiaries, and volunteers alike, come from places such as Egypt, Iraq or Armenia. This diversity creates a sense of belonging for everyone in the Caritas family.

At the start, I was nervous because of language differences. I speak some formal Arabic, but everyone else speaks colloquial which I did not understand. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be accepted and that it would be difficult to fit in because I was the only new volunteer. But after weeks of long chats with everyone in and out of the office, I feel like I am more of a friend than simply a coworker. I’ve also had the chance to meet a lot of people outside our specific Caritas center, from the soup kitchen to the elementary and middle school for Syrian refugees.

a long day equals worn out shoes

A long day = worn out shoes

In each of these places I’ve witnessed a deep sense of community, but I have to say, the most tight-knit community was the soup kitchen. I spent my first day there with the volunteers. We worked from 9 am – 11pm with people constantly passing by one another.

We spent the morning washing dishes for the dinner we would serve later that night, and when we finished a task, everyone would go outside for a smoke and laugh until they couldn’t breathe! We sang songs, talked about life, and traded stories. Though I couldn’t understand all of it, laughs are universal and they made me smile. When we finished our work before serving dinner, everyone gathered into the kitchen which was probably 90 degrees from the boiling water, we played music and danced! From Arabic music to Despacito, we moved and clapped along.

I am grateful to already feel so close to this experience and I can’t imagine how incredible the next four weeks will be as I get to know the people even better.

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Magis: India – challenging, beautiful, thought-provoking

Magis: India Hoyas at Prerana, an organization in Mumbai that works to protect women and children from the threats of human trafficking.

This past May Campus Ministry and the Center for Social Justice launched the first Magis: India trip. Here, Emily Jonsson, COL’ 20, reflects on her experience.

Those that know me well, or those that have ever encountered any piece of writing containing a fraction of my heart, know that I perpetually struggle with capturing the transcendent essence of what makes a moment, a moment. Such a struggle is remarkably comparable to the one I face now when posed with the question, “How was India?”

It was – indescribable. Challenging, beautiful, colorful, lively, thought-provoking, and compelling in all the best ways.

From the beginning, the focus of Magis: India was on healthcare access in Mumbai and what that looked like for marginalized communities in and around the densely populated city, an open-ended question with a variety of perspectives and approaches.

Our answers took the form of a crowded police station filled with women who wanted to share their stories. Long conversations about the detrimental effects of colonialism on LGBT healthcare, and artwork that defined mental health in a new way.

The stories we encountered, be they from the women we met in the Dharavi slums or from Sanjay Oak, the director of Medical Education in Mumbai, fundamentally shifted the way we think about these communities and the issues they face. With each answer an NGO would provide, there existed a growing list of questions that we offered in response.

And yet, these questions were not isolated. They were embedded in a rich cultural tradition, filled with beliefs, norms, language, institutions, clothing, food, and architecture towards which we had varying degrees of familiarity. For 10 days, we immersed ourselves in the discomfort of difference in an effort to build community with each other and with those around us. What began to emerge was unity in diversity, or, as we might be more familiar with on the Hilltop, community in diversity, a Jesuit value which we are often tempted to name-drop rather than seek constantly and intentionally.

Conversations on everything from religious and ethnic backgrounds to tattoos, family life, love for animals, travel, aspirations, worst dates, what brings us joy, and the people and places we call home consumed the long van rides and continued long after our nightly reflections concluded. We learned from the Center for Social Justice’s Mollie Vita about her experiences in Jesuit education, social justice work, and the value of immersion trips.

We pestered Campus Ministry’s Brahmachari Sharan with questions of religion and were surprised when his responses exceeded ours in curiosity, challenging us to become better versions of ourselves. This newfound sense of community embodied the Magis towards which we constantly strive. It was our personal invitation to go deeper into our passions and our relationships with ourselves, with each other, and with God.

Magis: India was more than seeking answers to questions. It was about stimulating discussion — throughout the experience as well as back on the Hilltop — about our own identities, about healthcare, South Asian culture, religion, and what community means and how we foster it in our actions.

Rather than finding comfort and complacency amidst our memories, we must challenge each other to continue in our translation of the moment into a life molded by our experiences. This will take place in classrooms and in lab work, in tedious meetings and in philanthropic ideals, in relationships with chaplains and in long conversations that question cultural norms. We express our gratitude in the work that we do each and every day as we carry within us and live out the stories of the people we encounter. Clinging tightly to the evanescent moment when something foreign felt like home.

Emily Jonsson is studying Classics and Government.

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A Conversation with Carmen Fitzsimmons Rosenblatt, Chaplain-in-Residence

This semester, Catholic Chaplaincy Intern, Alexis Larios, C’18, spent time getting to know some of the Catholic women chaplains at Georgetown. Their stories and insights about ministering to students are inspiring, thoughtful, and wise. Here, she interviews Carmen Fitzsimmons Rosenblatt, Chaplain-in-Residence for Copley Hall, where she lives with her husband, Mike, her dog, Pedro, and baby, Adela. Read more about Carmen’s journey to and time at Georgetown below.

What drew you to ministry? What did your path to Georgetown look like?

I applied to Georgetown because it’s a Jesuit school. I went to a Jesuit high school, and it made a big impact on my high school experience. I wanted a college that emphasized service and faith. I actually remember my grandmother saying that Georgetown was the crown jewel of Jesuit education, but I didn’t even know what it was. When I visited in April, I knew I was home. It just clicked. I wanted to be here and knew it would allow me to grow and find my path. I really loved going to Georgetown: I loved the opportunities I got involved with, like the CSJ and Campus Ministry. I majored in Theology because those were the classes I wanted to take when I went through the course listings. When I was a senior I applied to a bunch of different things because I wanted options. I talked to my advisor in the English department, and he told me that I was educated, and opinionated, and Latina, and could have a voice in the church. I applied to theology graduate programs, JVC, and other service programs. I was interested in a PhD at the time, so I chose pursuing a graduate degree in theology from Notre Dame. But when I finished the degree, I was tired of talking about faith as an idea; I wanted to talk to people and hear about their faith. Some of the best theologians have pastoral experience. So I first taught high school, but I really loved the ministry aspect – I loved the questions, and the conversations, and being someone the students could go to for support. I did more and more ministry until it became my job. When I look back on my career, it was campus ministries where I grew the most, so it’s no surprise that that’s where I was drawn. Campus ministry is a place where a lot of students find growth, and I like being a part of that.

I have always respected CIRs a lot, and I know they do a lot for Georgetown students. I was always interested in returning, so after I got married, I mentioned the idea to my husband, Mike. He didn’t have chaplains at his college, but after I explained it he really liked the idea, so we decided to try it as a family. I know being a CIR is exactly the space I love at Georgetown, where students who are so smart and driven and who care about the world take a break to say how am I really doing, to reflect, to catch their breath. I love being in a role that lets me accompany students in all of the things that they engage in.

What advice would you give to students who are trying to discern their callings or next steps?

So many things! I would say above all to give it time. To not make it an item on your to do list, but something you sit with over time, so that you can listen to the deepest yearnings of your heart, not the pressure to succeed or compete. To listen to your heart and ask where can I contribute to the world? Where I am I most myself? And how can I bring my best self to the world? I would also say talk to a lot of people. Talk to people whose careers you admire. Talk to people who know you really well. Talk to people who are having the same questions you are. And take all of that in as you listen to yourself.

What is your favorite thing about Georgetown?

My favorite thing is how deeply engaged and passionate students are. I have never met a Georgetown student who wasn’t impressive in some way. So often when I talk to students I hear the flip side of that – the pressure to compete, be successful, the intensity of caring, and I know that’s what makes them great, but it can be difficult to bear as well. I think it’s pretty fair to say the students. They are absolutely my favorite part.

I think the sense of history Georgetown has is remarkable as well. Georgetown doesn’t do what it does because it’s trendy. We are rooted in our tradition and faith. We’re not interfaith because it’s popular, but because it’s the cornerstone of our community. I love our basketball team, I love Dahlgren Quad, I love the Healy Bell. I think our colors and our mascot are the best. I hate orange, and Syracuse sucks. I love talking to my alumni friends and hearing the pride in their voice when they reflect on their experience. So much of Georgetown is the same and that’s really wonderful. I love that my daughter was born here and is part of the community already. I love that I married another Hoya even though he didn’t go here for undergrad – he got into Georgetown Law six weeks before our wedding. I think it’s fair to say that I couldn’t have married someone from a different faith if I hadn’t gone to Georgetown. It taught me how to understand other people’s faiths. I grew up mostly with other Catholics, so I came to Georgetown without a lot of experience in interfaith relationships/friendships. When I met Mike I thought a lot about what I learned at Georgetown and the friendships I had, so it gave me a blueprint for understanding and being with someone from a different faith background while still growing in my own faith.

What is your favorite part about being a CIR?

I love the connection between my family and my ministry. I love inviting people into my home and inviting them to get to know my family, and I love sharing my ministry with my family. I think being a CIR makes me a more authentic person. The faith I profess isn’t something I do part time, it’s what I do all day every day. I love the ways in which I get to share that with Mike. He gets to hear from the students’ updates about their lives, semesters, years. I love being able to share my dog, Pedro, and my baby, Adela, with students and saying come share in this and we’ll listen. I love being hospitable. I think hospitality is undervalued these days. I try not to make being hospitable mean being perfect. I think I would’ve worried about that before, but now I know I can be hospitable without being perfect. I think there’s value in welcoming someone in, saying come and rest, take a break. The biggest thing CIRs give to students is their availability. Our job is to be available. In a culture of Google calendar and constant notifications and moving from one meeting to the next, availability is rare and it’s a gift. I hope it’s one students can enjoy and appreciate.  

How do your identities impact your role? How do you engage diverse identities?

I think some of the identities that students have asked a lot about are the facts that I’m a woman who is Catholic, that I’m a person of faith and sorta fun, that I’m in an interfaith marriage, that I’m a wife and a mother, and that I’m an alum who successfully graduated from this place and have a career. Students ask me about those things: how did you know when to get married? How did you know it was time to move on to another job? What is it like to be someone’s mother? What does it mean for you to be Catholic in today’s society? I really enjoyed hearing from students through my pregnancy. I had a cork board in my apartment for students to suggest names, and I loved hearing their questions about that: how do you name a baby? How do you give someone an identity? Who gets to decide on a name?

I think this comes with being available. Often I hear questions from students, and they want to know more. They know things about me and want to understand. I try to open myself up to any student question because I know that simply talking about these identities and hearing from students can create a safe space for self-understanding. I’ve been thinking a lot about this phrase I heard recently in the context of interfaith families: you can’t be what you can’t see. When you’re talking about diverse identities, you need to look around and see a model. There are so many wonderful people at Georgetown who bring their identities to their work – faculty, staff, chaplains – and if I can share my few identities with students then I’ll do that. I also think so much of my time in college was exploring that identity, in new and different ways, and some of that has to come from encountering people with other identities. I’m not just a chaplain to women, Catholics, Latinos, I’m a chaplain to everyone. I hope that in the process of their own self-discovery students can feel comfortable engaging other identities. Too often, people think that self-discovery means surrounding yourself with people who are the same as you, but in my life it’s come from dialogue and close relationships with people who are different from me.

What’s one thing you wish students knew about you that they may not know at first?

My first year here was a disaster. I flunked my calculus final, never studied or did my reading, skipped a bunch of 8am classes. I didn’t have a roommate for a while which made me lonely. I loved Georgetown, but I didn’t know how to get the most out of my experience, and I was pretty shy, so it took me a while to grow into the Georgetown community. Some of that growth was through older students, people around me, welcoming me and showing me the way. Some of it was finding my niche in my studies. And some of that was campus ministers and chaplains bringing me into the Catholic community.

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A Conversation with Heather Kinney, Chaplain-in-Residence

This semester, Catholic Chaplaincy Intern, Alexis Larios, C’18, spent time getting to know some of the Catholic women chaplains at Georgetown. Their stories and insights about ministering to students are inspiring, thoughtful, and wise. Here, she interviews Heather Kinney, Chaplain-in-Residence for Harbin Hall. Read more about Heather’s journey to and time at Georgetown below.

What drew you to ministry? What did your path to Georgetown look like?

I’m a practicing Catholic, but I wasn’t always. It was a friend’s invitation to a retreat toward the end of my first year of college that changed the trajectory of my life, so much so that I changed my major from journalism to religious studies in the middle of my junior year and ultimately opted for a career in ministry, which I’ve been doing ever since. What drew me to ministry was the desire to accompany adults, whatever age, as they discern the answers to their questions of belonging, faith, meaning, purpose, relationships, and vocation.

Before coming to Georgetown almost four years ago, I was a college campus minister in Cleveland and San Diego and a high school campus minister and parish minister here in the DC area. A few friends of mine have served as chaplains-in-residence over the years, and I’ve always been interested in the role. But it was only a few years ago, as I was making a career transition, that I felt I’d have the time to commit to this ministry.

What advice would you give to students who are trying to discern callings or next steps?

When people ask me how I would describe God, I often answer, “God is a God of surprises.” As a Catholic Christian, I think of “surprises” such as the Incarnation of Jesus or the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to his disciples on the road to Emmaus. In other words, God often meets us in ways we do not or would not expect. Twenty-plus years ago, when I was a non-practicing Catholic studying journalism at the nation’s best journalism school, I couldn’t have imagined how the next decades would unfold. So be open. Be open to what your heart or gut is telling you and to what other people are telling you. If people are saying to you, “I could totally see you doing this” or “You’d be great at that,” listen to them. They just might be right. And find a mentor, someone who can help you discern what these voices are saying.

What is your favorite thing about Georgetown?

I’m so grateful for all the opportunities Georgetown offers to help me grow in my understanding and living out of Ignatian spirituality. My spirituality has always been Ignatian, even before I knew anything about St. Ignatius or the Jesuits. For me, spirituality is about three things: awareness, which leads to gratitude, which leads to action. Awareness of God’s presence and activity in my life and in the world. Gratitude for the many gifts God has given me. And action: sharing my gifts with those in need of what I have to share.

What is your favorite part of being a CIR?

Meeting students, whether in person or through the email messages I send each week. We chaplains are a soft place to land amidst the turbulence of college life, and we speak from years of experience. We’re asking the same questions students are – those questions of “ultimate concern” – we’ve just been asking them longer.

How, if at all, do your identities impact your role? How do you engage so many diverse identities?

As a lay Catholic woman, I hope I’m modeling well for students that faith and life are not incompatible and that sacramental priesthood is not the only way to serve as a leader with impact in the Catholic Church.

What is one thing you wish students knew about you that they may not know at first?

Not so much wish they knew, but they may be surprised to know I don’t love chocolate or cookies, both of which are regular features of my open houses.

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