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!