Speaking out: Catholic studies worth the effort

By  Danielle Rivest, Speaking Out
  • September 20, 2018

Whenever someone asks me what I study in school, my heart always sinks a bit. 

I’ve built up walls to protect myself from the inevitability that no one will like what I have to say. Most of the time, I’ll get a simple “Oh” in response, a single syllable that sounds more like a bullet than a remark. 

No one asks what courses I’ve taken. No one tells me that it’s interesting. Because I’m in an Arts program and because I’m in Catholic Studies for Teachers and English, I am asked, and I am silenced.  

I’ve always wondered why it is that no one wants to hear about the Catholic Studies for Teachers program. Maybe the problem is that it’s an Arts degree. According to most non-Arts people, there is little value to an Arts degree. But, we need to understand that value isn’t synonymous with money or employment. The ability to think critically, be informed, write clearly and hold meaningful conversations ... that is valuable. 

Another and, arguably, greater issue is the misconceptions others have about Catholic Studies. Despite popular belief, I don’t just study Catholicism. I have also studied world religions, social justice, morality, history and contemporary issues. 

Then there are those who struggle with the Church herself — whether in her teaching, practice or history — and can’t understand why I would invest time and money on Catholic Studies. But, just as with any program, the Catholic Studies professors are experts who seek to foster a space in which discussions are welcome and encouraged. 

To read the Gospels, engage with sacred art, write about Scripture and discuss the Church is to nourish your mind and your soul. By studying Catholicism, you are taking that step to not only believe, but to understand why you believe. 

Catholic Studies shares the same value of many other programs — to make the world a better place. However, Catholic Studies comes with a personal challenge to know God academically and personally. 

My time in the Catholic Studies for Teachers program was also spent in classrooms in the local Catholic school board. In my classrooms, I saw groups of young people who were all searching. Every student wandered through a garden of questions seeking to answer that ultimate “why.” 

Having taken Catholic Studies, I was able to be a source of solace for them, explain the meaning or history of something and clarify any misconceptions. These experiences and interactions truly fostered my vocation to be a Catholic educator. 

To study Catholic Studies is to know, understand and experience God in an ongoing and irreplaceable way. So, whenever you ask me about what I study in school, don’t respond with “Oh.” Ask me “why?”

(Danielle Rivest, 22, is a first-year teacher candidate at Western’s Faculty of Education - Althouse in London, Ont.)

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