On a recent pilgrimage with about 30 students to San Xavier Del Bac Mission near Tucson, one of the students remarked “being here on a pilgrimage gives me a new sense of this place.”
Something about being present and attentive as a pilgrim communicates a reality, a texture, a context, a totality that could not be fully experienced as just a tourist, or even just a student. The receptive and prayerful posture of the pilgrim, along with the direction of a knowledgeable and equally receptive guide creates the conditions to be present and prepared for the encounter in a whole new way.
The experience of the pilgrimage is very much an analog to what we hope our students encounter in the classroom. The point of Theological and Catholic Studies is to provide a critical examination of the deepest truths and how they have expressed themselves throughout history and continue to inform and shape culture today. These disciplines are meant to provide students with more than just data. They are meant to invite students on a pilgrimage, a journey that is meant to form a habit of mind — how to think about the world, and a habit of being — how to live in it. In this way, Theological and Catholic Studies are complementary to the myriad of important and worthwhile technical degrees students typically pursue. When done well, these courses help students integrate their faith and life, bringing all the seemingly disparate aspects of living into a unified whole. We don’t just want good students, we want intentional pilgrims who are ready to engage the very best of the Catholic intellectual tradition and bring it to bear on the various aspects of their lives.
The students gathered on our Catholic Studies Spring Pilgrimage read from diary entries of Fr. Kino who founded the mission in 1692 and hiked on his path forged through the surrounding mountains. They read poetry from Hopkins describing the “grandeur of God” and from Jessica Powers delighting in being a “Creature of God.”
Now Enrolling for Fall 2016
- THE 112 Introduction to Theology
(T TH 3-4:15PM) with Rev. Dr. Ignatius Mazanowski, FHS
- THE 220 Faith and Justice
(T TH 1:15-2:45 PM) with Mr. Joe Cady
- THE 326 Christian Marriage
(TH 4:30-7:30 PM) with Ms. Christina Strafaci
- CTH/ HIS310 Catholicism & America
(T TH 8:45-10:15 AM) with Mr. Larry Fraher
They celebrated Mass in the small baptistery and original chapel with its saguaro skeleton roof. They lit candles in the main sanctuary and joined the prayers of countless souls who have pinned small silver milagros on the dozens of statues that adorn the main and side altars. They dipped their hands in the fountain which served as a watering trough for the horses that brought the missionaries from Mexico to this place for over three centuries. They met the Franciscans who, since 1783, continue to faithfully serve the Tohono O’odham. They encountered the people who have turned this harsh desert into a thriving habitat, and ate the traditional food that they grow on their land. Being there as pilgrims opened up the horizon and allowed the intellectual and spiritual to converse with each other.
As pilgrims in the classroom or in an old mission, like San Xavier del Bac, we are called to experience “a new sense” of the world around us and our purpose within it.
We invite you to become a pilgrim, join us for a course at UMary-Tempe this semester. ✴
Dr. Ryan Hanning is Assistant Vice President for Strategic Partnerships and Director of Cultural Advancement at University of Mary – Tempe.