April 2021 Our Hearts Forever: Journeying in Kinship
Theresa Lee MA ‘01 reflects on her experience with the NDWC Lenten Shared Read, Barking to the Choir by Father Greg Boyle. Join her as she looks beyond the insular life that can be easily built during these uncertain times.
Our Hearts Forever: Journeying in Kinship
by Theresa Lee '01 MA
When I was younger and unattached, it was easier to fly away to holy places for an intense, liberating experience of faith. I earned a Master of Arts in Theology on Notre Dame’s beautiful campus, got my first job teaching young teens about faith in California, and traveled da sola to Assisi, Italy, for a holy pilgrimage. Now that I am older, married with three kids and a professional working parent navigating the pandemic, it has not been easy to fly away to my holy places, not even to my own church, for time alone with God. I’ve had to search for other avenues to practice faith.
Since graduating in 2001, the University has beckoned me close to her Golden Dome through Notre Dame Magazine, alumni newsletters and email outreach. Sometimes when reading the beautifully illustrated magazine I would make serendipitous discoveries, like the moment I learned that one of my most revered and favorite professors, Fr. John Dunne, CSC, had passed away. I had a blessed chance to mourn his death and remember fondly both his love for The Lord of the Rings trilogy and his deep spirituality of journeying with God that has been a part of my own journey ever since.
I was beckoned by my alma mater more recently,when at the beginning of Lent 2021, I joined the Notre Dame Women Connect (NDWC) Lenten Shared Read book club. We read Fr. Greg Boyle’s Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship, which instantly drew me in. I served as a discussion leader on the Shared Read Facebook page. With the helpful guidance of Susannah Krenn ‘04, the Shared Read leader, I enjoyed coming up with questions that resonated with inspiring stories from each chapter. Despite the limitations of social media, I appreciated the willingness of those who chose to share responses. I came to understand some of their stories as well, as those who are also trying to answer God’s call in their lives.
I am called regularly to practice the virtues of patience, humility, and joy through the daily balance of parenting and working as a school psychologist, maintaining focus on the wellbeing of the students for whom I advocate. God shows up as I search for answers in the early morning hours, inviting me to a more serene acceptance of things I cannot change and giving me the courage to speak my mind with kindness. As a parent, I am called to teach by example not to give up in the face of despair, racism, sexism, ageism, or any other -ism standing in the way of true peace and acceptance of self and others. God is present in my attempts to reassure my children that even though all is not right in our world, we may find true peace and wisdom in God who loves us all as His children, a message which resonates throughout Barking to the Choir. Even when struggling to understand the outrageous choices of those in power or challenged to find resilience in the face of an unprecedented global pandemic, I turn to God and pray for peace with Mary, Mother of God, knowing that God walks this road with me, leading the way.
The Lenten Shared Read with NDWC challenged me to open my eyes to needs of the world forgotten while we are isolated in our own familiar and familial world during our pandemic existence. Fr. Boyle calls me out of my comfort zone, like in a favorite hymn by Jesse Manibusan, to look for God “in places we have never known”. We may not know or see completely, but God is with us on this journey, nourishing us much as Frodo experienced in The Lord of the Rings: where the heart is willing, there is a way, and there are companions along the journey.
I was happy to find these companions for my Lenten Shared Read journey. They kept me accountable to myself, remembering that despite the distractions of family life, active participation in my church community and my career, Jesus invites me to choose the better part (Luke 10:42), at least for this Lent. He wants me to sit at His feet and contemplate His words and His gospel being lived out incredibly in the lives of those Fr. Greg has touched through Homeboy Industries. I am moved to find my next adventure on this journey with God, because Our Hearts Forever Love Thee, Notre Dame.
Our Hearts Forever was launched in January 2020 as a way for alumnae to share the journey of faith and action. If you are interested in contributing a piece to this column in a future newsletter, please contact Regina Gesicki at firstname.lastname@example.org.