Katie Anderson '04
"I didn’t choose Elizabethtown with religious studies in mind, but it’s clear now I couldn’t have made a better, more providential decision."
What made you choose Religious Studies as a major and, further, what made you choose Elizabethtown?
I chose Elizabethtown for a number of reasons. First, I was attracted by Elizabethtown’s commitment to service and peace, and to education that benefitted our community and world. Second, I was impressed by Elizabethtown’s personal touches throughout the decision making process; e.g. Elizabethtown sent me a phone card so that I could call and ask questions (the days before unlimited long distance and cell phones!). Finally, I was excited about the new Honors Program and the opportunity to be part of the development and growth of the program.
When I was choosing a college, it never occurred to me to consider Religious Studies as a major. Once I decided on Elizabethtown, I distinctly remember sitting at my desk at home, filling in the enrollment paperwork and having to choose a freshman seminar, which was a fateful decision. I chose Dr. Bucher’s seminar on Religious Autobiography; I absolutely loved this class and met several future religion majors who became my friends. I was fascinated by the way religion served as a motivator and meaning-maker for the figures we studied, like Dorothy Day, C.S. Lewis, Malcolm X, and Thomas Merton; it seemed to be a flame burning in them that pushed them to achieve things they never could have achieved on their own. Studying religion with Dr. Bucher was fascinating and addictive, and it wasn’t long before I got to know that the same was true of the other religion faculty, and, just as important, my religious studies classmates.
I didn’t choose Elizabethtown with religious studies in mind, but it’s clear now I couldn’t have made a better, more providential decision.
How did your Elizabethtown education prepare you for your career?
My Elizabethtown education gave me the intellectual and academic tools to consider theology and religion seriously. I learned how to think critically about moral and ethical choices, drawing on Scripture, my Christian tradition, and experience. My professors set a high standard for research and writing that prepared me for my graduate studies and my career. Most importantly, I learned to critically examine (and usually change) my assumptions, something which is invaluable in ministry!
Tell us about the day-to-day of your career – and, in what ways do you feel you are carrying on the mission of Elizabethtown – where learning is most noble when used to help others?
I work as a campus minister at Fordham University. I coordinate Catholic liturgies, working with clergy and students, and I also work with the other campus ministers to provide spiritual programs for the campus community. A typical week includes at least three Sunday Masses, committee meetings to plan liturgies and events, meetings with student leaders, rehearsal for the Passion Play, a special event like a film screening and discussion, reading and research, and a lot of emails. I feel that I am carrying on the mission of Elizabethtown because I am empowering my students to be servant leaders. Even though my job is concerned primarily with church services and not with service directly, I still see service, justice, and community at the heart of my ministry. For example, I ask student leaders to consider who is serving in a visible way during Mass, and to ensure they are inviting people of various backgrounds to serve.
What is most memorable from your experience as a Religious Studies major at Elizabethtown?
My professors and classmates, of course! A seminar class, “The Social Ethics of Martin Luther King,” with Dr. Mike Long, stands out. I would happily have stayed around that seminar table with my classmates until long after the class period ended and the sun set. I enjoyed testing out the new ideas I was forming, and I enjoyed watching the same process happen for my classmates. In holding us to high standards in our reasoning and writing, Dr. Long both challenged us and showed us what we were capable of.