Engineer finds theology more than just academic
A few years ago, Kim Hayes was an electrical engineer working for a contract manufacturing firm in Bloomington, IL. As she became involved in her parish - participating in Scripture study, Just Faith and other spirituality programs - the academic in her began looking at graduate theology programs.
She had never heard of Saint Meinrad, but a friend who is an alumnus suggested she take a look. "Coming here with an engineering background, I figured I'd take these classes, I'd get my degree and I'd learn it," Kim says. An academic exercise, primarily, although she was also drawn by the spiritual formation program.
Not surprisingly, the master's-degree weekend courses she began at Saint Meinrad in Fall 2010 sparked more questions and more interest. She fell in love with the place and the process.
"In some respects, it's like being on retreat," she says. "Yeah, it's an academic retreat, but it really is kind of getting away and being able to take a step back."
The rural setting is a nice change from the urban area where Kim works, and she enjoys the spirit of community she's found among the students. "I drive up on the Hill and I think, 'Oh, I'm home.'"
More times than she can count, a new insight or a particular class has occurred at just the right time. "I've had several classes come at a time that couldn't be better," Kim notes.
When she took a class that explained centering prayer and prayer journaling, she used the techniques to discern whether to change jobs. She decided to quit her engineering job and become the full-time youth coordinator at St. Patrick Church of Merna in Bloomington. Two courses in particular, "Adolescent Spirituality" and "Teaching and Preaching," have been invaluable in her new job.
The spiritual formation Kim found at Saint Meinrad was an added benefit. She began a spiritual formation program for credit, which led to other workshops and retreats. "And then…I really got into doing all the monk prayers…while I'm here," she says. "For me, not being a morning person, it's some act of God that I get up and go to 5:30 a.m. prayer."
With four courses and a final project left to do, Kim isn't sure where this degree is taking her. "I wanted to go work for a parish or the Church in some aspect. I really didn't know where, when and how. I knew that, eventually, I'd leave the world of engineering." Kim has already answered God's call in changing her career path. She remains open to God's will in her life, whether that means continuing her studies or taking on a different role in serving the Church.
Kim recognizes with gratitude that she is a different person from the one who enrolled three years ago. "It definitely has changed me. It's really hard to quantify it, but I guess it's less about the black-and-white of engineering than it is just being and experiencing."