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Alumni, Service, Student Profiles

Being “Christ in the City”

Written by Abby Kowitz, Catholic Studies Alumna, Class of 2012

As a recent college grad, most people nod their heads in approval when I tell them I have a degree in Accounting, but that same head nod quickly turns into a sort of confused neck spasm when I nonchalantly add that I also have a degree in Catholic Studies; and the great paradox is, that if given the ultimatum, I would drop the Accounting and cling to my Catholic Studies education in a heartbeat. Why? Because Catholic Studies has not only formed my perspective of my work, but has permeated every aspect of my life.

When it came time to decide what to do after graduation, one thought continued to ring loud and clear: “Our times need disciples for Christ who are willing to put their lives on the line for the sake of the Gospel.” Okay…that sounds great, but how do we actually do it? How do we do the seemingly impossible placed on our hearts by a realistic yet demanding Father?

I started to answer this by recognizing that I am a daughter of God and a member of the Body of Christ. I have been given everything with which to do anything, just not the controller. I have been called to use my talents and gifts to serve the Lord under no conditions, and after pretending for many months that my plan was better than His, I admitted that He knew better and am now serving as a missionary with Christ in the City in Denver, Colorado for one year.

Something that I will forever hold onto from my Catholic Studies education is that true leadership has everything to do with our being and nothing to do with our title; it is who we are, and not what we do. It has taken four months of humble missionary work for me to really internalize that definition in a practical way. Being a missionary, you are on the bottom of the Totem Pole… and I mean the literal bottom.

Why can’t someone more qualified process payroll as the Accountant for Christ in the City? Why does it matter that it’s me and not a random social worker counseling the young women who walk into the crisis pregnancy center? Couldn’t I be doing something better with my time than washing dishes by hand for the fifth time that day for my fellow missionaries and community members?

The answer is that it does matter that this person is me. I need to be the one processing payroll, and sitting with that vulnerable woman, and washing what seems like hundreds of dishes, because by recognizing that it is not what I am doing, but that I have literally been called to be Christ in these moments, that those seemingly small things take on the capacity to permeate and radically change our culture.

 “Our times need disciples for Christ who are willing to put their lives on the line for the sake of the Gospel…”

Thank you, Catholic Studies, for inspiring this desire within me, and thank you Jesus and Mary, for giving me the courage and grace to respond to it through Christ in the City!

Alumni, Student Profiles

For the sake of learning.


Written by Kelsey Willits, Alumna ’11, current CSMA graduate student
At the midway point of my college years I realized that I had lost my love of learning.  Rather than pursuing my studies for their own sake, I found myself fettered to the instrumentality of acquiring ‘A’s to adorn my transcript.  School was becoming work, a mere mechanical production, quite contrary to true meaning of school, which, believe or not, is leisure.  Yearning to be pierced by the wonder of the academic adventure, to enter deeply into the art of learning, I began the process of letting go of studying in order to do something and instead started pursuing it in order to become someone, that is, the woman that God calls me to be. 
By the end of the fall semester of my senior year, I reached a point where the thought of not being in school the following year was next to unfathomable.  My heart hungered to continue to partake of the feast of knowledge, to chew slowly on its delicacies, allowing the individual flavors to color the palate of my mind.  I now find myself a third of the way through the Catholic Studies Masters Program and with yet greater gumption I continue to exclaim, ‘I love school!’  What am I going to do with it, I often get asked?  I am not sure.  Who am I going to become?  I pray a better daughter, sister, friend, and, God willing, one day, an adorer of Christ in Heaven.

Alumni, Service

Presence of Christ in the city (literally)

Irma Montes-Alumna Spotlight

Posted by Irma Montes, Catholic Studies Alumna ’11

During my four years at St. Thomas I never really knew exactly what the Lord was preparing me for, but I knew St. Thomas was where I needed to be. I was fortunate to have many professors who really wanted to emphasize the importance of intellectual formation from a Catholic perspective.

As a Catholic Studies student, I came to understand that we need to have well formed minds in order to make sound decisions. Personally, I realized quickly as graduation got closer that it is a privilege to have a well formed mind. I then realized that I didn’t want to jump into the work force right away; I needed to give myself time to mature and just let the privilege I have been given set in a bit more.

ccdenverBecause of my experience with Catholic Studies, I knew that I needed to be doing something that involved formation of my mind and personal growth. In stepped Christ in the City. Continue Reading

Alumni, Faith and Career, Service

The Call to Love: An Alumna Shares Her Vision

Cap Corps Midwest 2010-2011 group, Laura is front-left

Cap Corps Midwest 2010-2011 group, Laura is front-left


Ten months ago, I was a Senior at UST, majoring in Catholic Studies and English with no idea what the next step would be after graduation.  If you would have asked me my plans, I probably would have shrugged and given a vague answer about looking for a teaching position in the Cities.  I certainly didn’t intend to move to South Chicago for a year, but the Lord had other plans!  So here I am, as a full-time volunteer with Cap Corps Midwest (with the Capuchin Franciscans), marveling every day at the mere fact that I am here. 

Continue Reading


Alumni Spotlight: Back to Rome

Posted by Gwendolyn Ryan, UST Alumnus 2008, Social Work, Catholic Studies, and Philosophy
This is my second year living in Rome but I promise you, living here is never boring. There is something enticing about Rome, that just sucks you in and never spits you out. If you have lived in Rome, you know exactly what I mean. I came here to study in the Spring of 2006 at the Bernardi Campus, the semester that I spent here was one of the best experiences of my life. I moved back to Rome after colleg in September of 2008, and even for me it was a crazy thing to do. When I moved here I didn’t have a job, I hardly spoke the language and I knew only one person. After college I had agonized about what to do next, having graduated in social work, I was thinking about starting a social work job in the Twin Cities. But I couldn’t shake my memories of living and studying in Rome. I had always wanted to live in a different country on my own, the challenge and the intrigue were so enticing. I finally decided after much thought to go for it.
Rome has agreed with me. When I first arrived, I did a month-long English Teaching Certificate program that was very intense. I graduated from the program with my teaching license to teach English as a second language. After that I frantically interviewed all over the city until I finally landed a job in October. That was a very stressful time, since I had to pay rent and yet I still had no job. All the money that I had saved had disappeared for the teaching course and what was left was dwindling thanks to the high conversion rate from Dollars to Euro. I had found an apartment behind the Vatican, it was tiny and rather ugly, but I didn’t care since I lived a ten minute walk away from the Vatican. My job for a language school made me work long hours for little money, but it was worth it. I went to Papal events, traveled around Europe with cheap flights, went to mass in a million different churches (and languages), played soccer in the park, and met people from all over the world.
I have since moved across the city to a different apartment, but I am still teaching English and I really enjoy it. I teach mostly private in-home lessons now and my students range in age from 3 to 60 years old. Lessons are rarely dull, even if they involve whining children more often than not. I’m still somehow paying the rent and even traveling, and I’m still thanking God for allowing me to live here, there is nowhere else I would rather be at the moment. Viva Roma!
You know you live in Rome if:
1. You live on a busy highway but your neighbor is a rooster.
2. You are woken up in the morning because the porter is singing loudly in the street. What the porter actually does is still a mystery.
3. Pasta is on the menu, once, twice, perhaps three times a day.
4. You smile and laugh your way through the work day; never entirely sure that you have understood what is going on.
5. You can go to mass every half hour if you are so inclined.
6. The pope is your neighbor and you can meet him twice a week if you want to.
7. The bus might stop at the bus-stop where you are waiting, but it probably won‘t, at least not in your lifetime.

Alumni, Social Events

Congratulations 2009 Graduates!

On Saturday, May 23, 2009, the University celebrated the graduation of the class of 2009. The Department of Catholic Studies held its annual graduation open house in the Great Room of McNeely Hall to celebrate the accomplishments of its undergraduate and graduate students. Families and friends were in attendance, with guests totaling over 300.
This spring, 52 Catholic Studies majors and 10 Catholic Studies minors graduated. Of the 52 majors, 38 are double majors and 3 are triple majors. These students have combined Catholic Studies with such fields as accounting, biochemistry, economics, education, mathematics, philosophy, social work, Spanish, and theology. A special congratulations to the 33 students who have earned Latin Honors!
In addition, 6 graduate students completed their studies this year.
Mary Harnan, staff member and photographer of the event said “Taking photos during the open house was wonderful and touching. Outside the weather was sunny and warm but it felt even brighter inside McNeely Hall, seeing the joy on the faces of the graduates and feeling the warmth, love and support of the graduate’s family and friends.”
View the slideshow below for pictures from the open house event:

Alumni, Social Events

Spring Alumni Event: Loome Bookstore

Posted by Chris DuFresne, UST Alumnus 2004, Business and Catholic Studies

The Catholic Studies Alumni committee sponsored their first 2009 event at
Loome Theological Booksellers in Stillwater, Minnesota. Dr. Don Briel spoke about the “Promise and Challenges of Catholic Studies.” The setting was quite unique in that the bookstore is in an old church. The alumni and current students sat in the balcony while Dr. Briel spoke from the staircase landing across the room. He discussed the great things Catholic Studies has to offer to a university, such as its ability to bring together so many of the important components of the Catholic Tradition, including literature, arts, theology, philosophy, etc.
Students asked questions of Dr. Briel to continue the conversation. Alumni were curious to know how they could support Catholic Studies at St. Thomas. Dr. Briel explained that any gifts to St. Thomas can be directed to a specific program or cause, which means donations can be made directly to Catholic Studies.
After the discussion, Andrew Poole, Catholic Studies Alum and one of the owners of Loome’s, invited students and alumni to shop the store. Students and alumni spent over an hour perusing the many shelves of antique, out–of-print, and current theological books.
The Catholic Studies Alumni Committee is a group of Catholic Studies alumni who work to foster the Catholic Studies Community after graduation for both undergraduate and graduate alumni. We would love to see you at an upcoming event! Save the date for the annual summer BBQ on Sunday, August 16, 2009.
Interested in helping the Alumni Committee? Contact Chris DuFresne ( 651-592-1027).
Join the Catholic Studies Group on Facebook! Search for “Catholic Studies Alumni – St. Thomas.”