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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A Conversation with Kathy Maguire-Zeiss, Chaplain-in-Residence

Dr. Kathy Maguire-Zeiss (right) with her children, Morgan (left) and Ben (center)

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 Dr. Kathy Maguire-Zeiss, Chaplain-in-Residence for Village C East. Read more about Kathy’s journey at Georgetown below.

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

I came to Georgetown in 2007, when I had no intention of coming to Georgetown. I was at a point in my career where I was offered tenure at my university. I was widowed in 1998, so I was busy as a single parent and we had a really nice community of people who helped us and that community was really important to me. But, when you’re getting a financial package [from a university], you have to have something to compare it to, so I interviewed here to get a comparison, and when I interviewed I fell in love with Georgetown. It’s easier to look back now and see why that was, but all I knew was that I had a feeling I wanted to be here.

Looking back at the Neuroscience department, I realized that it was a wonderful, collaborative space, and there were a lot more women in leadership positions, which I didn’t realize was important to me. When I came to Georgetown, I knew it was Catholic and Jesuit, but I didn’t think that being in a Catholic university was critical to my career. I am a cradle Catholic and I think because of that I had my children go to Catholic schools. Both Ben and Morgan at one point or another were in Jesuit schools, so I always felt like they had inside information about the Examen and Jesuits that I didn’t. So the truth of how all it emerged is that I was walking through campus and I saw the Prayer in Daily Life poster, and the date was near my birthday, so I said let’s do this.

My first spiritual director was Sister Helen Scarry, and she introduced me to Ignatian prayer. After that, I participated in the 19th Annotation [an alternative version of St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises] under the direction of Fr. Joe Lingan and that experience really changed things. I finally realized how much God loves me and in turn I came to see people in a different way, as individuals loved by God. The idea that it changed my view of science, or my classes, isn’t true, but it does change how I see my students – I feel that we’re always working together to go even deeper in our subject.

So, as I continued in spiritual direction and through prayer, I felt like God was still drawing me closer and to something more. I don’t think of myself as “all that”; I was a first-generation college student who just liked science and kept doing it. But through spiritual direction and prayer, I realized that when my students came to talk to me about class, they usually ended up talking to me about real life. So to get more training, I joined Holy Trinity Parish’s Ignatian Formation training to be a spiritual director. I just kept having the yearning to do more of this work and that prompted me to apply to be a Chaplain-in-Residence. I don’t want this to sound weird, but I went on the 5-day retreat once as an aide and what I realized during that experience was that I had a lot more love to give. The bottom line is that I feel called to help people. For the first time in my life I’m okay not knowing where I’m going. I just want to be open to going where I’m needed. Ignatian spirituality isn’t the only way, but it’s a way.

Living with the students is a great thing for me – helping them and telling them that they matter, that they matter to God, whether or not they believe in him. I see the students as young adults and I think we enjoy each others’ company; we just hang out and talk about their everyday lives. There are days when I have open house and I’m really tired beforehand so I’m not very excited, but then they come and I don’t want them to leave. I feel energized and I feel the Easter joy we hear about so much.

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

Certainly, if you can connect with a spiritual director, I think there’s nothing like it. You don’t even have to be sure there is a God to get started, what’s important is that piece we remind students about at Georgetown: reflection. So if you are making a decision, like what job to take? Take time to imagine what would it be like to be in that job – give yourself a couple of days with that if you can.  Another way would be to imagine what you would say to a friend who is thinking about taking a similar job. These are just a couple of ways to proceed but important in all of this is to pray and share what you are considering with God.  Then discuss this with your spiritual director – that is, seek wise counsel. As as scientist, I believe you need to gather the information and data to discern. These things aren’t just based on emotion, you do need data. And take courage, because a lot of the time what keeps us from doing things is fear. Just take courage and know that if you screw up, it’s not your only chance. If you’re afraid you’re going to miss the “call” by not doing something right now, know that it’s okay because God will keep calling you.

What is your favorite thing about Georgetown?

I think it’s the under current of people really caring about people. We have great examples of this with our colleagues, students and of course the Jesuits that aid us along the way. This is something that is unique about Jesuit colleges and universities and believe me, it’s not always the case that a work environment is so collaborative and pleasant. Of course, perhaps my favorite thing are the students because frankly we wouldn’t be here without them.

What is your favorite part of being a Chaplain-in-Residence?

I love the open houses and interactions with the students. It’s the best part. Definitely. There’s this joy that’s hard to put into words and that’s something I’d like students to see: that this way of life is really joyful. It’s a really small apartment, you know, but now it doesn’t bother me at all. I love having a much simpler life.

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

I’m a lot older than the students so I learn a lot from them. What many of the students face are not things that were talked about when I was in college or growing up. Even as a first generation college student I still feel like I’ve led a privileged life. What the students have taught me is that it’s important to see people. There are three things that I think make this ministry a ministry of consolation: attention, reverence and devotion. For me attention is noticing the person – who are they really? What is unique about them? Reverence is a call to not try to change them; it is an invitation to accept them for who they are and doing so in a loving way. And devotion means staying with them as they go through whatever they’re going through and noticing where God is in all of this.

I’m just a white woman from a middle class, Irish Catholic background, but I think I can identify with students because they share their experiences with me. And, I think my age and having grown kids who went through the college experience already, enables me to listen and empathize. Experience helps. Having gone through losing my parents, a brother, and my husband, those experiences are helpful to putting things into perspective and can help students when they’re going through their first loss. And, I think having children really opened me up to something, too, because there’s so much love there – my children really taught me how to love. For me the parent-child relationship is the closest thing to God-love because I love them just because they exist, and that’s helped me to see students with love.

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

Maybe just how much I care about them without even knowing them. You know there’s this thing about conversation: it opens up everything, which I guess is why I’m drawn to spiritual direction. It leads to conversion of heart, not like becoming Catholic or something, but if you’re holding onto anxieties, stress, etc. conversation can open that up. And I hope students know that they can come to me with anything. Also I’m pretty funny – or at least I think so!

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A Conversation with Lindsay Kelleher, 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 Lindsay Kelleher, Chaplain-in-Residence for Alumni Square and Townhouses, where she lives with her husband and their son, Jack. Read more about Lindsay’s journey at Georgetown below.

What drew you to being a Chaplain-in-Residence? What did your path to Georgetown look like?

My role as Chaplain-in-Residence was unexpected. I knew nothing about residential living, but my fiance and I were moving to D.C. in the summer of 2012 and I had been hired to teach at Georgetown Visitation. On Facebook, a former CIR posted that residential ministry was looking for one more person to join the team, and my brother found it and forwarded the email to me. I looked at it and couldn’t believe it was such a great opportunity. To know that I could be a full time teacher and do this was really attractive. Michelle [Siemietkowski] was the director at that time and I basically sent her my resume and cover letter the next day and was lucky to tell her that we were flying to DC the next week, and it all fell together. We moved across the country and basically tried to figure out this new role. That first semester living in New South, I was engaged and wrapping up wedding details, my husband was a first semester PhD student, so there were so many transitions happening, but I wasn’t really overwhelmed. I loved starting in a first year dorm, to have my door open and have students come in and out, was a great way to be introduced to Georgetown and students, and built my confidence as a chaplain. Having taught high school, it felt like they were my former students. It felt very providential to me.

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

These are my favorite conversations to have as a CIR! There are so many discernment opportunities in college: where to study abroad, what to do after senior year, where to go for spring break. These tend to be the core of my conversations with students, especially when it’s something someone has never planned on doing. My advice is to be patient with themselves and not to feel like they have to have the answer immediately, which is hard especially if there’s a deadline looming, and to have conversations with people they trust. I think everybody, and often times Georgetown students, need to hear that an opportunity or a next step might feel like it’s way outside of our comfort zone and not expected, it might seem like a disappointment, not part of my 5 year plan, but it’s one step. Ask for the courage to take one step at a time and trust that nothing is ever wasted. So many of the opportunities and steps I’ve taken weren’t exactly how I drew them up, and they’ve been gateways to incredible growth. But they require courage. I think that’s the unique part about this role: we are encouraged to be incarnational, to just share who we are, and students seem very interested in what brought me here, how my husband and I met, so I just share my experiences, my joys, and my sorrows as well.

What is your favorite thing about Georgetown?

I have loved getting to know the Jesuits here. It’s such a joy to attend the liturgies that they preach at, and to receive the sacraments from them is such a gift. I’ve learned so much about Jesuit spirituality from them, they’ve facilitated several transformative retreats I’ve been to in my six years at Georgetown, so I think that’s been a great part of my time here.

What is your favorite part about being a CIR?

I’m so honored by the trust in the CIR-student relationship. Of course that trust has to be earned, but students will bring their needs, their struggles, their joys, their questions. They might bring something they haven’t brought to anyone else, and I may not be able to solve the problem, but they desire that I journey with them and that’s a privilege. I feel really indebted to those CIRs in freshmen buildings because they establish that trust and community.

How do your identities impact your role as a CIR? How do you personally engage so many diverse identities?

I’ve been through a lot of transitions, and since this is such an incarnational role, I’ve brought the joys and struggles of those things and shared them with my students. The opportunity to serve students of all faith traditions and no faith tradition is such an honor. I’ve learned so much from our students about faith traditions that are not my own, and I bring that to my teaching. I always pray for the humility to, before any student encounter, especially if I have a sense that there’s a situation of grief or sorrow or trauma, I pray for the guidance from the Holy Spirit to say, or not say, whatever that student needs to hear. Probably, the longer I’ve been in this role, the more I’ve realized how no words are necessary in certain situations – presence is all I can offer. A few years ago, a student in my building passed away, and those were the hardest few days I’ve ever had to walk through with Georgetown students. I learned so much about pastoral care from the other chaplains in Copley, and it was a privilege to follow their lead.

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

In my six years at Georgetown, I’ve never eaten a meal at Leo’s and I feel like it’s a rite of passage!

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