I’m going back to graduate school next week. Yikes! I am almost positive that this is what I should be doing. In fact, the only trepidation is my own lack of confidence in my mental abilities at this point in life. I’ll be 58 in a few weeks. What am I thinking?
I started a distance grad program in 2011 that I chose because my husband was still in the Active Duty Army and I knew we’d be moving, so that type of education seemed best. We ended up moving 4 times while I was studying with that school. Then, a son, my only ‘baby boy,’ deployed to a combat zone for 9 months and my husband was given a very important assignment that included the responsibility for thousands of Soldiers, families, and DA Civilians. I had a role, I believed, during that time, as well, that kept me productively and rewardingly busy. Just the Army mom and Army wife hats were enough stress to deal with. And so I asked for a Leave of Absence from our Dean. He agreed and I was so relieved. I was also incredibly grateful for such an understanding man. Turns out his daughter is married to a Marine and he had witnessed their deployment experience with a young child, as well. What are the ‘chances’? I say it was Providential.
And so, after a year and a half or so, when we’d moved yet again, I figured I could handle a new class. So I took myself off the LOA rolls and took one more class. It was rough! I passed but it was my worst grade, I think. It was high enough to keep me in the program. But I decided once again, as my own husband prepared for yet another deployment to Iraq, and my son was also leaving again for a 9 month rotation to S. Korea, and my Soldier son-in-law was dealing with his own Army deployments and such, that I would step away from the distance graduate degree program once more.
I thought I would never finish that degree. Then some very interesting things happened. My husband retired from the Army after 37 years (one month shy of his commissioning date), we moved to Maryland to be near our daughter and her family, and then said husband accepted a job offer in Southern California! That had its own stresses and I was not super excited to move to the west coast which seems (and is!) so far from most people I know and love. And, now that I was no longer an Army wife, my ‘known place where I fit’ was gone! Kind of scary. Once we moved out here in January of 2019, I ‘ran into’ one of the Admissions directors from the Franciscan School of Theology at the San Diego Walk for Life and was delighted to find that they offer a Masters of Theological Studies degree! Maybe I could finally earn a Masters.
Things were ‘fast and furious’ after that! I sent for my transcripts from my former graduate school and for my undergrad transcripts, as well. All were sent off to FST and, lo and behold, all but one course’s credits were accepted by them! I also still had plenty of time left on my husband’s VA “GI Bill” benefits package to pay for my classes! Hallelujah! Providential, I believe.
I wrote an admissions essay, asked 3 friends/associates to write letters of recommendation which they did in record time, God bless them, and I prayed. Of course, I was praying all along. But I really just sort of ‘fell into’ this entire scenario. I had looked online for California graduate theology schools from Maryland and had found nothing. Because we’d never lived out this far west before, I’d made the mistake of only looking for San Diego schools. FST has been in Oceanside, California for many years. It isn’t far, but it wasn’t showing up in my search. Additionally, only THIS academic year FST is now offering courses at the University of San Diego. Another Providential event. Both campuses are lovely.
My Confirmation saint is St. Francis of Assisi. That also happens to be my maternal grandmother’s name, the female form, Frances. She celebrated her saint’s feast day, October 4th, every year as many Hispanic Catholic people do. In fact, it was such a celebration that, for years, my mom thought that was her mother’s birthday! But her birthday was actually in December. I did not know any of that when I chose St. Francis for my Confirmation saint. I just loved him. He was so simple, humble, loving everyone and every created thing because he loved God so much. Francis saw Him in all things. And shouldn’t we all?
I often wonder if my Abuelita Frances wasn’t praying for me all along the way to get me to this day? I’m sure my own mother’s prayers were and are involved, as well. She and her mom are reunited in Heaven now. But at this time, when I found the Franciscan School of Theology and it was so effortless, really, to get in, I can’t help thinking that my Grandmother and her unrelenting faith in God and His mercy and love have led me here.
Gracias, Abuelita! Rece por mi! Chiquita is taking her faith back to school, seeking understanding of what we believe so I can share it with others. The world needs hope. I won’t change the world, but my prayer is that God will use me and this education I’m attaining to hopefully plant some seeds, soften some hearts, and give me more opportunities to serve and love my brothers and sisters with whom I inhabit the earth.
It’s been a long time coming, St. Francis, but I’m on my way!
*Providence – universal in that all events, even the most personal decisions of human beings, are part of God’s eternal plan. (Catholic Dictionary)