Real Life Project provides students with opportunity for vocation discernment
Hannah Thomas | Wednesday, September 25, 2019
As Saint Mary’s students consider their personal vocation, they can learn and participate in the exploratory discussions offered in the Real Life Project.
Real Life is “a program that helps participants explore who they are and what they want,” Susan Baxter, communications studies professor and table facilitator of conversation, said in an email.
Arlene Montevecchio, the director for the Center for Spirituality and a table facilitator, said a person’s vocation is a complex understanding of the direction of their life.
“Vocation being broader than just a job or career, but including things like relationships, and your gifts and talents, and your interests and passions as well,” Montevecchio said.
The Real Life Project invites students into conversations with table facilitators regarding the discernment of their paths for the future.
“Real Life helps them understand that their vocations … are an evolving process, and not an all-or-nothing, happily-ever-after destination,” Baxter said.
These discussions allow for a pause in the stressful search for the perfect career to talk about meaningful impacts in your personal life and the world around you, Montevecchio said.
“I don’t think we take enough time in modern society to just think about purpose and meaning, and this is a good tool for the students,” she said.
During the four sessions taking place this fall semester, students will also take a personality test and learn about Catholic Social Teaching and how to respond to social issues in the world.
“Students can think about their personality and how it fits with their interests and possible future career choice,” Montevecchio said.
The Real Life Program has continued to grow since Anita Houck, religious studies professor and table facilitator, and alumna Kim Abeel, class of 2008, started the program with a grant that assists faculty and student projects, SISTAR.
“The program draws on Christian, particularly Roman Catholic, traditions about vocation and discernment, but it’s designed for students of all faith traditions and world views,” Houck said in an email.
The program introduces many skills that students are able to apply to their daily lives and can share with others as tools to always grow and learn about our vocations, Houck said.
“We also talk about how useful mindfulness can be in staying grounded and keeping perspective so we can discern and live out our vocations, and we try out some kinds of mindfulness in the sessions,” she said.
The Real Life Program accepts sophomores, juniors and seniors nominated by faculty members, and students can also apply if they are interested. The Center for Spirituality, the program sponsor, offers a variety of services for students and conducts a variety of conferences throughout the school year.
“We try to look at intersection of faith and reason with special attention to women’s experience, and all of our programs are open to faculty, staff, students and the public,” Montevecchio said.
Houck said participants and facilitators of the Real Life Program value the organic, meaningful conversations that occur through the gatherings.
“I really admire [students] taking the time to dig into the big questions of life — the same questions I’m still wrestling with,” Houck said. “It’s such an honor to hear their stories. It’s really humbling.”