Coming from a small town in the Italian Alps, choosing to apply to Saint Patrick’s College was certainly not something common or expected….
Coming from a small town in the Italian Alps, choosing to apply to Saint Patrick’s College was certainly not something common or expected. My father’s furious reaction to my decision of studying Theology well exemplifies how this discipline appears obscure and even useless in the eyes of most of my compatriots. ‘Are you going to become a priest?’ was the question being posed to me most frequently. Every time it was for me incredibly challenging to have to explain the reasons behind my decision, also because (I must admit) such reasons were quite confused even in my own mind. I surely could not mention as a valid motivation the fact that, since the very first fortuitous time when I had come across a prospectus from Maynooth, I had been enchanted by the Neo-Gothic architecture of the campus. No rational student would choose a college for such a reason. I had thus to come up with something else. I was then always careful in reminding relatives and friends that I was not applying for a degree in pure Theology, but that I would have integrated it with much more spendable Arts. Certainly this precisation did not convince my father…
Supported by a couple of long-sighted teachers, I remained firm in my choice and impatiently waited until that unforgettable morning of late August 2011, when the admission decisions were finally released.
I had no ties whatsoever to Ireland; my new life there had to be built from scratch. And I will not hide the difficulties that this sometimes entailed, mostly on a personal level.
I had come to study Theology with a very limited notion of what that would have really involved. My strong classical background, coupled with professors’ and fellow classmates’ capacity to make me feel at home, was enough to get me through the initial phase of disorientation. Starting with the second year, I got involved in a series of societies and projects on campus that proved to be an essential element to my integration into college life.
My third and final year in Maynooth was certainly the most rewarding and memorable. On the academic level, my choice of integrating Theology with Geography was making increasing sense in my own mind, and the first ideas about possible further study started to surface. On the extra-curricular plain, I was afforded the great privilege of being part of the committee of the Student Theological Society, where we put together a very high-level programme of events.
All these experiences contributed to form me not only as a student, but mainly as a person. And it was this aspect, I believe, even more than any academic excellences, which made it possible for me to be accepted by Harvard Divinity School to attend a Masters in Theological Studies. In such a plural environment such as HDS, the two qualities that are mostly appreciated are openness to diversity, and serious engagement with one’s own religious tradition. My time in Maynooth fostered in me both these aspects. Grounded in the millennial living tradition of the Catholic Church, St Patrick’s is surely the place where to critically explore and enrich one’s faith; at the same time, its collaboration with Maynooth University, makes the college an incredibly diverse forum in which to dialogue with different perspectives. It is along these lines that I always understood the purpose of my degree and my time in Maynooth in general. And now I can say (and my father reluctantly has to agree) that it bore its fruits.
To sound somewhat cliché, putting St Patrick’s College Maynooth on my CAO was probably the best decision I have ever made. As I am about to embark on my final year here in St Patrick’s College I am filled with conflicting emotions, on one hand I’m excited to see what opportunities will come my way after college and on the other hand I am saddened to think that I won’t be returning to St Patrick’s every day.
At this point in my time spent in college I have learnt things I didn’t think possible, discovered things about myself that I didn’t know existed and most importantly I have made friends who I know will stay with me long after I leave college. I walk into college every day smiling because I know I’m going to attend a lecture where I’m acknowledged, the lecturers know you as a person; not just a number. When people ask me what is it about theology that I like so much I just end up smiling and saying “everything”, from the vast curriculum to the on-campus experience, There isn’t one thing about studying Theology in St Patrick’s that I dislike. So yes to sound clichéd, coming to St Patrick’s College Maynooth was the best decision I have ever made.
Aoife McGrath, PhD
People are always amazed when they hear I spent 9 years as a student of Theology in Maynooth. They wonder how Theology as a subject could have held my interest for that length of time and what job prospects I hoped for after all those years of studying. I spent my first three years being introduced to the various topics of Theology and English, making friends across both campuses, and enjoying both the recreational side to student life and the picturesque campus.
As I neared the end of my degree, I felt that Theology was not yet finished with me, nor I with it. So I embarked on two further years of study and entered the Master’s programme. While I researched and wrote my thesis in the Theology of Marriage, I tutored undergraduate students in many subjects. This experience awakened in me the desire to lecture Moral Theology in the future. Bolstered by my sense that I had something to contribute in the area of the Theology of Marriage, this desire led me to undertake the Doctorate in the Theology.
As for the job prospects of a student of Theology: I have been an occasional and part-time lecturer in a number of Third Level Institutions across Ireland; I am a Research and Editorial Assistant for the anthology entitled An Irish Reader in Moral Theology: The Legacy of the Last Fifty Years; and I am currently a full-time Parish Pastoral Worker. My role is to contribute to the life and work of the parish, which involves initiating, training, supporting, and resourcing various teams in Liturgical, Pastoral, and Formation ministries. I find Pastoral Work immensely rewarding and I am certain this experience will enable me to be a more competent and credible lecturer. My years in Maynooth opened up a new world to me, prepared me for a meaningful profession, and launched me on my way.