... a question that I often received from friends, family, or colleagues was "what are you going to do with your degree?" To this, I often replied that it was the other way around: the degree program was doing something with me.
As a lay person enrolled in St. John's Seminary's Master of Theological Studies (MTS) degree program, a question that I often received from friends, family, or colleagues was "what are you going to do with your degree?" To this, I often replied that it was the other way around: the degree program was doing something with me. The sum of my experiences in the MTS program -- the academic, human, spiritual, and apostolic formation that I received -- helped me to more fully embrace my call to holiness and to better define my role as a member of the Body of Christ.
During my studies and since graduation, the biggest impact that this formation has had on my life is within my family, the so-called "domestic Church." My relationship with my wife and our approach to raising our three young children have been enhanced by a deepened and more active relationship with God, combined with better knowledge of Church teaching. We have been told time and again that we must build our faith on a strong foundation (Mt 7:24-27). Not only did the degree bolster my faith, but I now feel confident and equipped to help those around me, particularly my children, to build their own foundations.
I have also taken on a more active role in building the faith within my local community. My parish, St. Augustine in Andover, has become a key element in my life, around which much of my day-to-day activities revolve. This is coming from someone who works full-time outside the Church and who is often racing from soccer to dance on any given evening. My connection to the parish seems to be a natural outflow of my experience in the MTS program -- where the interactions with classmates were an essential component of the formation that I deeply cherish. We were of different ages, with different hometowns and careers, but we were united in our pursuit of the good, true, and beautiful. We prayed together, learned together, snacked together, reflected together, and shared our struggles and successes.
I now find this richness in my interactions with parishioners and also those in need. Whether I am participating in Mass, teaching a confirmation class, leading an adult-faith sharing session, or serving dinner at a shelter, fruitfulness abounds. Whatever enrichment I may offer by sharing my time, faith, and knowledge is returned many times over in abundant graces, new perspectives, accounts of God's love and mercy, and humbling examples of what it truly means to be salt of the earth and light of the world (Mt 5:13-16).
And so I encourage readers to consider what your hobbies and interests are currently doing with you. Are they enriching? Are they helping you to grow as a disciple? If not, perhaps it's time to consider some new options: developing a more active sacramental life, joining a parish Scripture study, turning on Catholic radio, auditing a class on Church history, or enrolling in a full-degree program like the Master of Arts in Ministry (MAM) or Master of Theological Studies (MTS) of St. John's Seminary.
Oh, what plans God has for you!
ERIC LANDERS IS A 2017 GRADUATE OF THE ST. JOHN'S SEMINARY'S MASTER OF THEOLOGICAL STUDIES PROGRAM.