I am going to St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry later today. The occasion for the visit is the beginning of the new academic year. We’ll celebrate the eucharistic liturgy together and then enjoy a picnic supper. Whether we’ll picnic inside the building or on the grounds depends on what kind of weather we’ll have in a few hours.
Any gathering at SBSTM is pleasant. The particular delight of tonight’s event is the sense of excitement participants bring to it. I refer to returning and new students, support staff, members of the board, benefactors and friends of the institution. They clearly enjoy one another’s company and celebrate friendship begun or strengthened through their activities at the school.
I think that at another level the energy rises from the quest in which these students are involved. Here are people who seek to understand more deeply the mysteries of our faith. They want to tap the spiritual and historical cultural riches of our tradition. All do it for personal growth; most do it with a view toward active ministry in the church. They want to help people connect with the Lord so that they can enjoy the hope that only the Lord can bring.
Those familiar with St. Bernard’s understand that students who enter this course of graduate studies are rarely fresh from completion of their bachelor’s degrees. Nor do the SBSTM students frequently complete their courses of studies without interruption. Rather, they take courses as their finances, family and employment responsibilities allow. In short, it takes a significant commitment and more than a fair measure of patience to stay the course. The faculty is much devoted to the students and helps them in all ways that they can. But the fact is that the course of study is demanding.
One of the great, rich aspects of the life of St. Bernard’s is the backgrounds of the student body. These are people with considerable life experiences — in family, education, business, the trades, etc. They’ve lived a good deal of life. They love their faith. At some point in so many of them, these two streams converge in a way that leads to their matriculation at St. Bernard’s.
I have often heard them speak about the excitement of the classroom. I know from the context of such discussions their comments are recognition of the faculty’s quality. It also is clear that these comments are a clear reference to the contributions students make to one another in the course of their theological education.
Many of you are aware that St. Bernard’s is housed in new quarters on French Road in Pittsford. It is adjacent to the motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph. If you have never visited the site, I encourage you to do so, to attend a lecture, have a tour or gather information.
If you have ever thought about the possibility of pursuing theological studies, I’d encourage you to give some additional consideration to the possibility. You might find it helpful to speak to someone at SBSTM about such a possibility for yourself. I can promise you that you will find encouragement in the quest and honest answers to your questions. And, believe me, no one will put any pressure on you.
Sister Patricia Schoelles, SSJ, is president of St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry. I know that Sister Pat and her excellent staff will be delighted to assist you in any way they can. St. Bernard’s address is 120 French Road, Rochester, NY 14618. Telephone: 585/271-3657. Fax: 585/271-2045.
Peace to all.