Mindful Ministry Series – Nathan Sheets, MA '21
Nathan Sheets, MA ‘21
Master of Arts, Theology & Pastoral Ministries
Executive Director at The Center
As someone who is currently a practitioner of homeless-services, and heavily influenced by Catholic Social Teaching and Jesuit spirituality, I began my journey in higher-education at Santa Clara University by exploring which programs would allow me to keep my growing family and my full-time leadership position at a homeless services non-profit in Los Angeles. That’s when I came across the Graduate Program in Pastoral Ministries (GPPM).
A remote, cohort-based opportunity to study theology, and ministry practices through a social justice lens was exactly what I was seeking, and the GPPM community at Santa Clara University gave me that opportunity and more.
In my quest, I found Dr. Joseph Morris and Lynne Lukenbill to be so helpful and supportive. I quickly felt connected, even with my concern regarding the financial and time investments it would take to complete the program.
As a member of the Los Angeles cohort, I was immediately inspired by the program, the faculty, and my peers even without being present on SCU’s campus. It all began with Dr. Fred Parella’s Fundamental Theology course that gave me a perfect grounding for what was to come. Throughout my time in the GPPM, I felt a deep sense of gratitude from being in the company of pastoral ministers (mostly women) who facilitated peace and justice through their rooted faith in the Church and the Gospel. I can’t express enough how much the deep trust of the women in this program (especially my classmates) meant to me. They consistently made me feel supported, loved, and valued. The professors did the same through emphasizing that our courses were not just to be accomplished to earn a degree, but also helpful in our overall faith and ministry journeys.
Ironically, it wasn’t until I was nearly finished w/ the program that I actually set foot on the campus at Santa Clara University, but when I did, I felt a deep appreciation for the campus and its role in my personal transformation; a feeling I know I am not alone in experiencing.
My biggest takeaways from the program, in no particular order, are:
- Interrelationship – Learning about the intricate relationship between God’s people, the earth, and the responsibility as a Christian for stewardship of all Creation is a gift this program has given me, that will leave a lasting impact.
- Transformation – The instruction itself was one of transformation in my journey of faith and in my understanding of the deep rooted connection of all creation to itself.
- Responsibility – As an executive director of a growing homeless services organization, I’ve felt an ongoing call to allow my experiences within the GPPM program to influence how we responsibly care for the people with whom we come into contact with at The Center.
- Progress through leadership – I was asked to ponder how we, as leaders, forge a better, deeper, and more holistic connection to each other, creation, and to ourselves. I’ve learned that seeing the divine in ourselves, and using that to help others, is something leaders should prioritize as we live and work in a very fragmented, and polarized world.
Lastly, as someone who was raised in a protestant household and educated in the public school system all the way through my undergraduate college degree, participating in the GPPM program at a prestigious private school like SCU was a unique opportunity. In hindsight, that opportunity now feels like another crucial step on my lifelong journey of growth.
I can’t share enough positive notes about my journey with Santa Clara University. It is my sincere hope, however, that these words help to gird the imaginations for all considering the investment of the GPPM and SCU. My prayer is for more folks to take a leap of faith and apply to this program. I promise they won’t regret it.