By Lauren Robinson
I recommend that everyone takes at least one class at one of the other schools in the ACTS consortium. One reason that I strongly suggest this is that you will immerse yourself in another academic institution with a different outlook; you meet people with different perspectives and backgrounds; you allow yourself to be displaced from what is comfortable. I felt this strongly when I took “Spiritual Companioning” at the Catholic Theological Union (CTU) during my first year. What is Spiritual Companioning? Spiritual Companioning is about learning how to listen to another person with your heart and with your spirit. Instead of just engaging ideas, you are trying to see how God is moving in this person’s life. A spiritual companioning session or spiritual direction session, listening meeting is a free-flowing event, usually between two people. That means you can talk about whatever is on your heart while the other person reflects back how she heard what you have shared and how she hears God speaking to you.
In this class, I was placed in a spiritual listening group with 3 other people: one person was a sister from Uganda, another was a Claretian brother from India, and another was a Claretian brother from South Korea. At times, it was a struggle to truly understand what each person was communicating, and sometimes I felt misunderstood. However, these moments of conflict or frustration facilitated great learning opportunities in which I was humbled. Prior to this, class I did not have much exposure to Catholicism, and consequently, I held a few assumptions about my classmates and about how they would receive me. Many times I was wrong: at no point did I feel slighted or judged despite not always being sure I had been understood or even if we disagreed about something. It was a very freeing experience to be vulnerable with strangers. I was pleasantly surprised that we became good friends and that I even attended one of my group member’s deacon ordination.
I have taken two more classes at CTU, Liberation Theology and Spirituality and Justice at CTU. Taking these classes challenged me to consider why I believed what I believed. And in both of these classes, I have benefited from learning about my classmates and how they have experienced injustice in different contexts. Recently, in Spirituality and Justice, we had a discussion about inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. One of my classmates, a student from outside of the U.S., did not understand how race and class operated in the U.S., and thus challenged the idea of racial biases in our justice system. We were talking about the mass incarceration of people of color, and my classmate suggested, “Isn’t that an issue of class and not race?” I won’t go into the whole discussion, but I thought that my classmate’s genuine question encouraged me to thoughtfully consider how to articulate the relationship between racism and economic inequality, which is usually understood by my McCormick classmates.
Again, I think you will grow if you take classes outside of McCormick, and you will also appreciate the great teaching, the freedom, and support that you receive from McCormick. If you want ideas about classes to take, let me know! I have also taken classes at Garrett and at CTS (Chicago Theological Seminary). Feel free to e-mail me or Facebook message me about this!
To check out what classes are available to you through the ACTS Consortium, check out their extensive course catalogue.