Kate McLaughlin ’21
On Monday, December 3, students gathered in Levis Browsing Room in Dinand Library for the final Agape Latte event of the semester. The event was co-sponsored by the Student Government Association and the Spring Break Immersion Program, and featured speakers Professor Virginia Ryan from the Religious Studies Department and Isabelle Jenkins ‘10, Associate Director of the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning.
After a performance of “The Middle,” “Little Lion Man,” and “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” by Fools on the Hill, Catherine Floyd, Courtney Esteves, and Katherine Elacqua, all SBIP Co-Chairs, introduced the speakers.
Professor Ryan and Isabelle used three Mary Oliver poems, “Praying,” “The Messenger,” and “Lead,” to guide their discussion, and reflected on each poem in the context of their own experiences with faith.
Professor Ryan said that the most defining moments in her faith journey have been moments of resistance, adding, “I find god in ‘no’.” She remarked that the first time she resisted God was the first time she really felt his presence and realized the extent to which she had imprisoned herself and kept herself from being authentic. She said that Mary Oliver and her poems have given her a chance to “be in a doorway and just show up,” and feel comfortable with questioning God and “throwing off the supposed-to-dos.”
Isabelle reflected on the lines “Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work, which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished” from “The Messenger.” She said that these lines reminded her of her experience as a student at Holy Cross, including participating in the Spiritual Exercises Retreat and meeting her spiritual advisor and mentor, Kim McElaney, who convinced her to go on an immersion trip to El Salvador. Kim died of cancer shortly before she left for El Salvador, which made Isabelle “show up and stand still,” or be attentive and open minded and enjoy the things that are imperfect but real.
The program gets its name from the Greek word “agape,” which means unconditional love, and allows students to explore questions of love, faith, and spirituality with other members of the Holy Cross community and connect in ways that they cannot in the classroom. The event takes place three times each semester.
Photo by Hui Li ’21