Monday, March 26, 2012

Why I Want to Study At The John Paul II Institute

I just found out that I've been accepted to the (*takes big breath*) Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., for a 2 year program to obtain a Masters in Theological Studies (M.T.S.). Last night, I told my friends that I was darn sure I would receive mail from the institute today, since Mar. 26th is the Solemnity of the Annunciation. Mary got an announcement, and so would I. I didn't take myself too seriously when I said that to my friends - but I prayed a rosary for it anyways. And ka-ching! Thanks Mama Mary.

One of the things I had to do as part of the painstaking application process was an essay, describing why I want to study at the institute. It actually covers a lot of ground, and delves a bit into what I think is missing from today's culture. Here it is:

The hunger to make my Catholic faith an inseparable part of who I am began after I attended World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Australia. I had been a practicing Catholic long before then, but when I found myself post-pilgrimage on a sailing trip off the coast of Australia with no answers to questions that the other passengers asked, I realized that I needed to more actively pursue my faith. Since then, growing in relationship with Christ through the Church has been my deepest longing and desire. Much more than growing in knowledge however, I desire to grow in wisdom and understanding as to how the Catholic faith is relevant in today’s culture. The JP II Institute’s brochure The Nature and Purpose of the Institute states that the aim of the school is to promote a culture of life, a culture “…wherein the Church’s understanding of sexual and family ethics…find a home.” With our culture being bombarded by relativism, modernism, and materialism, I have witnessed the damage that is wrought when these ideologies attack who the human person is created to be, as well as the selfishness, apathy, and pain that ensues. It is only by the wisdom of the Church and the Grace of God that I have learned that love is sometimes a feeling, but always a choice. Unfortunately, among my family, friends, and classmates, I see people making the wrong choices. By studying theology at the JP II Institute in terms of how we as persons relate to the Trinity, I firmly believe that I will grow in my faith, grow in an understanding of how to love, and grow in knowledge of how to help build up the culture of life.

Although I have had no previous formal education on the subject, I have independently studied a lot of theology, and it has served me well in trying to make sense in a world that increasingly wants everyone to think that nothing makes any sense at all. Nowhere is this more apparent to me than in the education system. I, unfortunately, have been rather unsatisfied with my undergraduate studies at the University of British Columbia. The most disturbing thing I have witnessed is that none of my subjects have made a real difference in my life; they fail to change the way I live. I have a hunger for truth, and my university education has not given it to me. Even more unfortunate is the fact that I have witnessed this same hunger for truth, and this same lack of receiving it, in high school students, and it was because of this that I first realized my yearning to obtain a formal education in theology, in order to one day have the option of becoming an effective Catholic high school religion teacher.

Besides my yearning to become a teacher, I have been my parish’s youth ministry coordinator for more than two years now, and have been involved in the leadership roles for many large-scale diocesan youth ministry events and high school retreats since 2008. I have spent countless hours with youth from the ages of eleven to eighteen, teaching catechesis through the Life Teen program, giving testimonies at retreats, and organizing and running day-long youth rallies and week-long camps – all with a heavy focus on catechesis and prayer. And what I have found through all these experiences is the same: young people want answers. I often contemplate and think about aspects of the faith, and am pleasantly surprised to find out that the many young people I mentor frequently have the same questions. They wonder how faith can have a purpose in their life, or how they can reconcile all the different aspects of themselves when they seemingly contradict each other. They have these questions and these desires in themselves because God placed them there, and I have seen their struggles, but also a desire to understand God, and be in relationship with Him.

When I discussed all of the above with my friends Pavel Reid, Felipe Grossling, and Veronica Grossling, they immediately pointed me towards the JP II Institute, and I immediately felt called to apply. Through the education there, I would be able to grow intellectually and spiritually. It would be extremely beneficial not only for me, but for my parish community, as well as the Archdiocese of Vancouver as a whole. With an M.T.S. degree, I believe I would be able to open myself more readily to the Grace of God, grow in understanding and faith, and become equipped to do my part to show others that the Catholic faith is not a set of rules, but a most beautiful way of life.

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