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Vocation Story - M.T.S. Degree Program

Jane Phillipson's Story

I grew up in a practici Catholic family, belonged to a vibrant parish and attended Catholic schools from Kindergarten through to first year university. Gradually though, my childhood faith became less able to guide my life through adolescence into young adulthood. Like the proverbial sheep, I became quite lost until I met my future spouse. We both reconnected with the Church as we approached marriage. I taught for two years in Catholic elementary schools but my faith was shaky, mostly a matter of tradition and familiarity. I didn’t come to adult faith until I was almost 30 years old when a frightening loss sent me searching for understanding and hope.

I will always be grateful to our pastor at the time, Fr. Gilles Surprenant, who was first and foremost a credible witness to the love of Christ. He was open to dialogue about how faith can help us see the difficulties of life in new ways. He recognized a desire for adult learning about Christianity, and took responsibility for integrating the wonderful Alpha Course into our Catholic parish.

Since then my ongoing education in faith has challenged me to grow. I continue to discover exactly what the Church teaches and why. At the same time, I have tested what I have learned to find out its truth. For example, as a young woman I had fears and practical objections to Natural Family Planning which surprisingly gave way to hidden gifts of freedom, peace and joy. Adult faith education is an invitation to continual conversion, both intellectual and personal. 

Wonderful witnesses and mentors have accompanied my 20+ years of adult education; from the Alpha Course to learning Ignatian Meditation, from the Sisters of St. Joseph’s Certificate in Faith Development Facilitation to Saint Paul’s University’s Summer Institute in Religious Education, and most recently St. Peter’s Seminary’s graduate level theological education. I could compose my own litany of the “saints”, for the many catechists, mentors and companions whose stories and gentle presence have helped my learning take root. In the words of St. Paul, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:15)

You may have reasonable questions about the financial costs in discerning whether the M.T.S. or M.Div. programs are for you. Studying part-time has made it more affordable and there are also bursaries available. At one point, when I felt my studies were a burden on our family income, we received an unexpected tax refund that covered my tuition that year. My experience has been that beyond our reasonable planning, God has encouraged and provided for my education.

The most common question my husband and I have had to face about my studies at the Seminary has been, “What are you planning to do with that degree?” We have had to tailor our response since there is a fair bit of mystery in the plan of God for our lives. I have mentioned paths to parish ministry, diocesan leadership, chaplaincy, spiritual direction and writing, but ultimately my hope is to become a better witness to Christ. To help others experience God’s love and begin to understand the rational foundations of our faith; the why behind the “what” we believe and do as Roman Catholic Christians.

If you have any questions about my experience in the M.T.S. program, please feel free to contact me through the Seminary.

Jane Phillipson