Calling is not a straight line

When I was a Valpo student, vocation was often discussed in my circles as being the place where one’s “deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”  This is a classic statement from Frederick Buechner.  It’s shorthand, while also holding important meaning.  In fact, Buechner helpfully gives some practice examples of this, suggesting that writing cigarette ads might be fun but probably not helpful, and that being a doctor in a leper colony is very helpful, but if it drains your joy then may not be your best-fit vocation.   The image that this formula always brings to my mind is that of a cross-hairs: two straight lines that find a center, a bullseye.  The world’s need on the x-axis, my gladness on the y-axis.  In this image, as an undergraduate, I found a target with a point system, like the archery targets I used to practice on at summer […]

Cross-Purposes at the Threshold

    It’s that time of year—in the calendar and in the rhythm of college life—when we instinctively look ahead.  Perhaps we declare a resolution to those around us, or search out an app to download that will help us track and manage our habits.  (Our consumption culture has just finished a season of encouraging us to indulge, after all, and now we’re exhorted to take control so that adds some pressure, too.)   On college campuses, soon-to-be graduating seniors are often peering more earnestly into the future, as well—perhaps finalizing applications or awaiting graduate school decisions; seeking to network and interview for positions that are still coming into focus; wondering with a mix of excitement and uncertainty about a position that they may have already secured; navigating relational commitments and how best to live into them in this next period; recalibrating as plans shift.   In all this, possibilities beckon, […]

Discerning Calling and Purpose

Why are we here?  What is my purpose in life?  Who am I and how do I show up in the world?  These are a few of the very big questions that we ask around here, in the Division of Calling and Spiritual Life, at Valparaiso University, at the Institute for Leadership and Service, in the church. I admit, there are days when these questions are a little too big for me, to the point of being incomprehensible or illogical.  In fact, the older I get, the less I profess to know, as Anne Lamott points out in her recent essay on knowing less and less every year. What to do when we look around at society?  What are we supposed to do with a refugee crisis that is sending thousands of people into our cities and towns every day?  What are we supposed to do with wars that find […]

Lavishing Attention in Uncertain Times

Lately, I’ve been stopping to admire the light a lot.  The way autumnal light, beaming lower on the horizon, bathes the crimsons, ambers, and golds of trees this time of year.  Earlier dusks painting the sky in clear, breathless beauty as I walk to my car under increasingly bare tree limbs.  The warmth of a single candle flickering by the sofa – one among many antidotes to those fast-darkening evenings and the chilly mornings when I rise.  The pastel hues of my daughter’s miniature lava lamp, casting patterns across her ceiling at bedtime to ward off unwelcome shadows. These may be small details, observations half-formed in a midday or mid-evening moment, but for me they are also potent reminders – calling me to pay attention to the world around me, to the sacred and the small, to the reverence such details and moments can invite. In An Altar in the […]

Valpo embraces Día de los Muertos

Students and faculty will gather at several locations across campus this week to celebrate Día de los Muertos, a Hispanic cultural tradition honoring loved ones who have passed away. The kick-off event will be an evening of crafting and pozole, a traditional Mexican soup, from 6-8 p.m. on Oct. 30. The Valpo community also had the opportunity to submit photos of their loved ones to be displayed on commemorative ofrendas, Spanish for offerings, on the second floor of the Christopher Center Library, Harre Union, Loke Hall and the Gloria Christi Chapel Nov. 2-8. Sonia Morales, Assistant Director of OMP (Office of Multicultural Programs), and Kat Peters, Assistant Director of the Institute for Leadership and Service (within the Division of Calling and Spiritual Life), have been instrumental in fostering the collaboration that makes these events possible. This year, the celebrations have expanded to other facilities, in part to accommodate students who […]

Remembering Our Loved Ones on Day of the Dead

Dear Valpo Community, Valparaiso University has a long-held tradition of celebrating All Saints Day, in which we remember those who have passed away in the last year.  Names are read on All Saints Sunday (November 5, 2023), including the names of those who have died from our university community, whose photos are displayed all year on the third floor of the Christopher Center Library.  Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a Latin American tradition to honor and commemorate the lives of the loved ones who are no longer with us, and to welcome acknowledging their continuing presence in our lives. The main part of this cultural-spiritual tradition is the ofrenda, an ornamental space dedicated to honoring our relatives. This year, Valpo wants to bring this important tradition to four key locations on campus to celebrate Dia de los Muertos in the university community. We want to invite you to join us in […]

Listening for Purpose

By Kat Peters, Assistant Director of the Institute for Leadership and Service Calling and Spiritual Life Newsletter, October 11, 2023 My friend Julio is a rapper in Costa Rica – he comes from a Nicaraguan immigrant family that lives in a precario (what we call in the English translation a “shantytown”).  He raps about social issues that he sees in his community, an active place filled with the noise of life – music, conversations, construction, cooking, playing, vehicles, and more.  In order to hear himself think and without having regular access to a recording studio, he regularly records in his car, where he can have some quiet.  In both literal and artistic ways he’s trying to cut through the noise to help us listen to his message. As a staff here at the Institute for Leadership and Service we have been talking a lot about listening this semester.  ILAS thinks […]

Just Breathe: Morning Prayer Homily

September 25, 2023  Kat Peters (on “How I Sabbath, or Try To”) Text: Genesis 2:4-7 How is your breathing today?  When was the last time you took a deep breath?   Several people have already spoken about the story of Creation as a place for us to ground our thinking about the Sabbath.  Today we return to Genesis to look for more clues on how our identity as creatures of God connects us to God’s life-giving self.  God breathed into the first human’s nostrils the breath of life. Breathing is something that we don’t often think about, at least not on a day-to-day basis.  If you do yoga, you might remember that you are often asked to return to your breath as you deepen a stretch or a pose.  People who are giving birth are coached to breathe as a way to focus through intense pain.   But on a day to […]

The Radical Power of a Pause

The start of the academic year invites us to new beginnings and renewed commitments.  The welcomes and exhortations at Convocation in the crowded heat of our stunning Chapel.  The crisp, clean syllabi passed out, signaling knowledge to explore and problems to solve.  A new calendar or planner, awaiting the events, due dates, student org meetings, and group study sessions we will fill it with soon enough (if we haven’t already).  It can feel heady and promising–ours to claim and relish as we dive in. But as much as I love being back on a full campus that’s rich with community, the beginning of the year overwhelms me.  I am conscious of all the things that I need to do.  Right now.  I am conscious of the desperate need to establish new (efficient!) rhythms as campus comes to life and our attendant work (whether we’re students, faculty, or staff) responds in […]

Bittersweet Ending at the Bridge

As I go into my last week of my CAPS internship, I reflect on my time at The Bridge Teen Center. It brings a certain realization when I think about my internship ending and that is how my time as an undergrad is ending as well. When looking back through the summer, my favorite parts have to be when I would spend time with the students. As the program intern, I get the opportunity to lead and help with programs that the students are in. I was able to lead a program which was a ‘Big Room Hangout & Karaoke’ program. This was a lively program since from start to finish students were singing a song. They went up alone, in pairs, and even groups of three. The students had a lot of fun and so did I! Another program I was able to be in charge of was a […]

My Summer Adventure

My internship has now come to an end and I’m now able to reflect on my entire experience. I moved to Indianapolis at the end of May to begin my internship. When I first arrived I was very nervous and scared. But, I was also excited. The first few days I was a little shy and nervous. My first big surprise was that everybody worked out of a community house instead of a traditional office. But that quickly subsided. I built a great relationship with mentor and/or supervisor Rasul Muhammad. He really did a good job looking for me over the summer and my experience at Kheprw was so great. I also built such a good relationship with the rest of the staff at Kheprw as well.  They cared and looked out for each other. Inside and outside of work. They were more of a family rather than just coworkers. […]

Saying Goodbye: My Last Week with Heartland Alliance’s VELT Team

As I am completing my last week with Heartland Alliance’s VELT Team, I am both excited for the upcoming school year and a little sad about having to say goodbye to such a wonderful team and group of students. I have had so much fun here and although it was a bit tough for me at first, I have grown so much and I am grateful for that. I have asked for help more, realized the importance of a work-life balance, taken on new challenges and opportunities, and built relationships with so many different people. I don’t believe I would have grown so much this summer without this experience. Asking for help and accepting that needed help hasn’t been easy for me. I am very independent and I try to do things on my own as much as possible. I have many different reasons for that but I think the […]

A City Divided

The “Urban Plunge” One of the activities that I lead with City Service Mission is called the Urban Plunge. This activity is centered around the general idea of food insecurity and the food deserts in not only Washington D.C. but also wherever in the country the visiting group is coming from. The plunge involves bringing the group to Lincoln Park in Capitol Hill and explaining to them the causes and effects of food deserts. After providing context to the activity’s purpose, the group is let loose to go and locate the nearest grocery stores and create a budget based on a hypothetical family who has a household income below the federal poverty line. This is an opportunity for the students to experience a small taste of what it is like to live with food insecurity and begin to think more about how they might play a role in influencing the […]

Embracing the Transformative Power of Music and Prayer at Lutheran Summer Music

Stepping into the world of music as a social work major with an art minor at Lutheran Summer Music (LSM) was an intimidating yet transformative experience. Among the many incredible aspects of LSM, my involvement in the chapel choir stood out as a profound journey of self-discovery, connection, and spiritual growth. Reflecting on my time in the choir and the daily morning and evening prayer rituals, I am reminded of the transformative power of music and prayer within a supportive community. The chapel choir at LSM became more than just a group of individuals singing together; it evolved into a supportive community that embraced me with open arms. Despite my initial insecurities about not having extensive musical knowledge or the ability to read music, the choir members and our dedicated choir director fostered an environment of acceptance, encouragement, and unity. Together, we created something beautiful through our collective voices, transcending […]

Embracing Identity and Finding Self at CRS

As I come to the conclusion of my time as a CAPS Fellow with Community Renewal Society, I find myself reflecting on how I have grown and developed through my experiences as a Communications and Development intern. While this summer has certainly gone by fast, it has been a delight to learn about various macro-level and policy approaches for tackling the connections between racism and poverty, participate in webinars on engaging members of a congregation and building a valued donor base, aid in launching the new CRS website, and celebrate the passage of the Pretrial Fairness Act in Illinois. Most notably, it has been incredibly educational and rewarding to witness the elimination of cash money bond, a crucial part of the prison industrial complex that furthers racial and economic disparities for individuals presumed to be innocent. Despite the time it has taken to recognize the value of eliminating this inequitable […]

Nurturing Your Passion Through Learning and Growth

Through the Chicago Reporter, I had the chance to pursue my passion project on gun violence. Last week, I had a meaningful interview with Kweisi, who tragically lost his brother to gun violence years ago. Kweisi, a poet and advocate, strongly believes in healing through his poetry and the concept of forgiveness. He believes the only way to heal is to grow and forgive. When he shared his story with me, I was struck by the profound strength he possesses to navigate a world filled with cruelty, his determination to prevent similar situations and aid others in healing from their traumas is truly inspiring. My current aspiration is to bring Kweisi’s story to the forefront and shine a spotlight on the significant issue that the Chicago community and the entire country is grappling with. The issue is the absence of adequate checks and balances for gun control and the mishandling of […]

Exploring New Horizons: My Journey at Lutheran Summer Music

While Lutheran Summer Music, or LSM, has been around for 40 years, this was my first year. As a social work major with an art minor and no prior experience in music, joining the LSM community was intimidating. Luckily, with an art concentration in my background, I know that art comes in many different forms, and all forms of art are enjoyable for me. Although coming into LSM, I knew little about anything musical, nor had I ever listened to ‘nonpopular instrumentals’. So I was a bit out of my comfort zone, although the mindset I had due to my artistic background helped me navigate the unfamiliar territory of music at LSM because it was a completely new world to me. Luckily, the LMS community is very welcoming, which made learning about musical culture easier. As a social work major, my major instructs me to understand and appreciate different cultures; often, […]

Reflecting Back on My Time at the Guild

I am currently a little over halfway through my time here at the Guild. That sentence conjures up both feelings of restlessness and anticipation. Grappling with the reality that this is the last summer of my college career (and maybe life) has been an unexpected challenge that I have had to overcome this past month. A reality that, in the scheme of things, is wildly unimportant but nonetheless a challenge I have felt deeply. At the start of the summer, I was excited to explore the vastness of the nature surrounding me. My time was often consumed with various tasks that had to be completed before Summer Programming began, so I never really had the time to dwell on this revelation. As tasks died down and a once-foreign daily routine became my new normal, I started to have more time to miss the people that I would usually fill my […]

Reflecting on a Nature-Filled Summer

As I wrap up my fellowship at Shirley Heinze Land Trust, I’ve been reflecting on my experience and looking towards the future. I have enjoyed working with a group of smart, driven people this summer who have equipped me with invaluable information to advance my career.  Through my research, I’ve written educational policy briefs on urban agriculture, water quality, conservation easements and more. I’m proud of how I’ve been able to create and execute this project from the ground up, and I’m excited to see what direction Shirley Heinze takes this work once I transition out of my role. Not enough people in Northwest Indiana know about land trusts and their vital roles in conservation and preservation, so I hope that my work helps with outreach and education in that regard. I’ve appreciated how the rest of the Shirley Heinze interns and I have been engaged in professional development throughout […]

Summer Fun at By the Hand

I am about two months into my summer internship at By the Hand Club for Kids, which has been gratifying. Unfortunately, my time here is quickly reaching its ending point. I am enjoying my time so much that Interning here is flying by so fast and does not feel like work!  During a normal day of Summer programming, I was able to sit in a music class for 1st graders. It was a beautiful moment to witness the students praising God by singing and dancing to Gospel music. I even discovered that a few of my students had a true gift of singing and should consider pursuing it.  On Friday, June 30th, we were able to treat students that made A’s, B’s, and C’s to Great America. Many of the students that went on the trip had never been, so it was great to see their faces light up as […]