This blog post is part of a series of reflective pieces written by various Chaplains-in-Residence. The Chaplains-in-Residence play a special role in the lives of students on campus – particularly in their adjustment to college residential life. In this series, the Chaplains-in-Residence share how their own lives have been transformed since moving to the Hilltop.
In August of 2012, I opened my apartment door in New South as a Chaplain-in-Residence for the first time, welcoming our new residents with excitement and a bit of nervousness. It was a semester of tremendous change for me personally. I had just moved across the country, began a new teaching job at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, and was four months away from being married. At one of my weekly open house nights in late August, a student caught sight of the homemade countdown calendar my sister made for me. Guys and girls alike were fascinated about my upcoming nuptials and would walk in each successive week for cookies and snacks asking, “How many days until you say, ‘I do?’” In January, when our residents returned from the semester break and my husband, Patrick, moved in, I held a special open house to introduce the second floor residents to their newest neighbor. We ate Italian wedding cookies and looked at pictures from our big day. What followed was a beautiful, spontaneous conversation about commitment, covenant, and our hope for a family one day.
About 40 of those freshman residents followed us to Copley Hall the next year. There were many more open house gatherings, meaningful programs with Residential Living colleagues, and 1-1 conversations with students searching to make meaning out of their Georgetown experiences.
I received an e-mail that autumn from a 5th floor Copley resident who asked to meet privately. She had spent most Sunday evenings of her freshman year attending Mass at Dahlgren Chapel, observing intently, being nourished by our Jesuit homilists, and feeling a pull to full participation in the life of the Church. She had begun RCIA preparations with Campus Ministry and was told she needed a sponsor for baptism. With many lingering questions of faith and doubt, doctrine and discipleship, she asked if I would journey with her to the waters of baptism. I was honored and overjoyed. That April, in Dahlgren Chapel, she was anointed with Chrism, sealed with the Holy Spirit, and received the Eucharist for the first time.
My second year of ministry in Copley Hall was transformed, almost from the start, by the death of a resident who was taken from our community and her family and friends by meningitis. It was a frightening week for our residents, especially the women of the 5th floor, waiting and wondering what risk of transmission remained, all the while grieving the loss of a friend. There were serious e-mails and mandatory meetings, with the Vice President of Student Health, CAPS counselors, and a room full of university officials simply wanting to care for the residents of Copley. To step back and take a broad view of the network of offices and individuals who take the commitment to Cura Personalis seriously was remarkable. And yet in those days and weeks, I saw the unique role of Chaplains and Jesuits-in-Residence. We were there in the thick of the crisis, offering pastoral care, and we remained, just down the hall with open doors for the weeks and months after. Fr. O’Brien, Anne Elisabeth and I accompanied many students through the slow and messy grief process.
In February, I met with the Director of Residential Ministry to share the joyful news of a baby on the way. When I shared our happy news with the Copley community, our residents were thrilled for us, sending a barrage of e-mails and stopping by to offer congratulations. As they watched me grow until summer break, the weekly question became, “How big is Baby K?” The size of an heirloom tomato? The size of a zucchini? The size of a cantaloupe?
It was a no-brainer then, after the healthy and happy arrival of our son, Jack, in September to choose Dahlgren Chapel for his baptism. At the same fount where I stood with my hand upon my resident’s shoulder 18 months before, I held my baby boy and welcomed him into the Church.
Written by Lindsay Kelleher, Chaplain-in-Residence