Education or social work? Program helps middle school teacher explore vocational discernment
March 10, 2018
For as long as I can remember, every prayer has begun and ended with the sign of the cross. The sign of the cross has been the catalyst for, and the conclusion to, every Mass I have ever attended. The sign of the cross is indicative of my religious and Latina identity.
As a child, I ended all prayers with the sign of the cross. My parents, however, would seal their prayers with the sign of the cross and a kiss of their thumb. Although I never asked, I assumed, and maybe subconsciously knew, this must be related to my parents’ ethnicity. Having attended a few Spanish Masses in the U.S. and in Argentina, I noted that a majority of Spanish-speaking Catholics made this same symbolic gesture of kissing the cross by representing the cross with their thumb overlapping their forefinger.
This small, learned gesture has been carried with me to where I find myself today, in Glasgow, Scotland. Although a year ago I was doing the sign of the cross in a relaxed college-town church, today I finish prayers with an “Amen” alongside other parishioners in a welcoming and loving Church of Scotland community.
I would never have expected to find myself going to Church of Scotland services every Sunday if it hadn’t been for the Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Four years ago, I graduated from the University of Oregon with bachelor’s degrees in family and human services and Spanish. While my initial intention was a career in social work, I was inspired by local internship experiences to pursue a master’s degree in education. After teaching middle school for three years, I’m now discerning God’s vocational calling on my life — education or social work.
Wanting to spend a year in service and discernment, I researched volunteer opportunities that would allow me to reflect on my calling to serve youth. My exploration led me to the YAV program because its core tenets deeply resonated with me and what I was looking for.
Applying online was the easy part. The application took time, but my anticipation didn’t start growing until the interviews, which were comforting and unsettling all at once. The interviews were comforting in that they confirmed that the YAV program would allow me to grow. Applying was unsettling because although I was excited about the program, I was also nervous about being part of a faith-based program that was of a different faith background.
These fears were quickly squashed during the YAV “dis-”orientation event. Here I was welcomed into a family, a family I didn’t know existed or realize I was missing. At the end of our week, I cried, thinking about our parting. I didn’t know then that I would find such a loving family and community with the Church of Scotland. Regardless of where I’ve come from and where I find myself today, whether I make the sign of the cross sealed by a kiss or finish a prayer with an “Amen,” my feelings are reflected in what the minister said on a recent Sunday:
“Though some of us may travel on different paths, we are all on the same faith journey.”
Constanza Petersen of Eugene, Oregon
Today’s Focus: Constanza Petersen of Eugene, Oregon – Young Adult Volunteer
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Gracious God, you have created us to be a diverse people. Teach us to learn from our differences so that we might bear witness to the diversity that makes up the body of Christ. Give us wisdom. Grant us peace. Amen.