In May of 1998, shortly after returning home from my sophomore year of college, I walked into the dining room and calmly told my parents that after two years I was switching my major from elementary education to theology.
My parents, thanks be to God, didn’t cringe or gasp. In fact, their only real question to me was what I planned to do with this major. (At the time I assumed that I would teach religion in a Catholic high school. What’s that line about telling God your plans?) They also asked me to do one thing: before I turned in the paperwork, they wanted me to talk to our parish’s DRE, Debbie.*
I don’t remember much of the conversation I had with Debbie, but I do remember one piece of advice she gave me: if at all possible, do a double major. The point wasn’t so much the academic titles as the fact that having a skill unrelated to theology or pastoral ministry adds a whole new dimension to what you are able to bring to your ministry as well as increase your marketability. Drawing on a perspective outside of traditional ministerial practices is a useful corrective to the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality that can creep into parish life.
I wasn’t able to do a double major since I switched so late in my academic career, but I held on to Debbie’s advice nonetheless. And, indeed, my knowledge of technology and social media has proved to be a great boon to my ministry and opened doors to speaking and engaging with other catechetical leaders that might not otherwise have been available to me. It has also helped me think about catechesis, evangelization, and parish ministry in different ways as the shifting cultural landscape reacts to these new technologies.
Even these many years later I remain grateful for that piece of advice and the fruit it has born in my ministry!
What “extra” skills or knowledge do you possess that could be used to enhance your ministry?
* I later found out that my parents had talked to Debbie in advance and told her to dissuade me from changing my major. She says that she’s very happy to have failed!