My name is Sabrina Brown and my choice to study theology at St. Mike’s came as a total surprise to me. In fact, four years ago I was not even a member of the Roman Catholic Church.
After Grade 8, I made a bold decision: I decided I would not go to the public high school with my classmates but would attend the local Catholic high school. I would have been one of the few non-Catholic students at the time, but I was very excited to learn about religion. (I’d been baptized in the Presbyterian Church as an infant.) My parents agreed it certainly couldn’t hurt — and that it likely would be good for me. It’s hard to articulate but my high school experience transformed me.
I really did enjoy religion class and being a student in a Christ-centered school. I loved that my school uniform gave me a sense of community identity and that we were like a family of faith. After Grade 9 I felt I was being called to be a teacher, a feeling that grew stronger in Grade 12, when my religion teacher had a significant impact on me. I remember thinking that she was someone who not only meant what she said, but that she had the knowledge and the academic background to back it up. She was a St. Mike’s graduate and was wrapping up a second theology degree. One day, she showed our class her thesis, a work in progress, and I remember thinking, “Wow! That’s amazing. There’s no way I could ever do that.”
I graduated determined to be a teacher who was just as passionate and knowledgeable as my religion teacher. I went to U of T, where I majored in French Teaching and Learning, as well as in Art and Art History. Then I completed my Bachelor of Education degree at Queen’s University. I was employed as a teacher the following year, and so far I’ve taught French and Religion.
My move into theology really surprised me. I knew I would go to graduate school but always thought it would be in education. Near the end of fourth year, however, I was taking an elective at St. Mike’s and found myself so excited to get to that class; I really loved the company of the other students. I remember thinking they had something that I did not and, after a period of reflection and discernment, I realized it was the gift of faith. Throughout my undergrad, I wasn’t really attending church, although I was invited a number of times by other students. It was probably just too early for me on Sunday mornings! But by fourth year I decided I wanted to join the Catholic Church. I signed up for RCIA at a little church in Oakville all by myself, recognizing that I would be the first Catholic in my family in hundreds of years. At 22, I made a solemn profession of faith and was received into the Church at the Easter vigil. It was a monumental moment, and I knew my life was about to change in a big way.
After teachers’ college I received invitations to work on a Master of Education degree. Although I was really excited about that possibility, I knew God had an even better plan for me, so I applied to the Faculty of Theology for the Master of Religious Education program. When I received my letter of acceptance I was thrilled!
I am so grateful to be a part of this faculty and I have met some of my best friends here. I plan to continue to study theology and to keep asking big questions. Being a student at the faculty has given me numerous opportunities to meet other Catholic educators, and has even given me the opportunity to travel to Israel. This past summer I was a member of the Bat Kol program, a program for Christian scholars who wish to study Jewish Scripture with a team of Jewish and Christian professors in the Holy Land. I took a course on the Book of Genesis, and another on the Biblical spirituality of the land. We learned Hebrew and had the chance to see the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock and to walk up the Via Dolorosa. I also swam in the Sea of Galilee and even got to go to Mass in Bethlehem! The experience will remain with me for the rest of my life. (The picture above shows me on the Sea of Galilee.)
Since becoming a student at St. Mikes, religion has become the primary subject I wish to teach and I am passionate about it. My high school experience in religion class had a huge impact on me. The reality is that it changed my whole life. I feel teachers should see their positions as one of ultimate privilege, as they have the power to transform students’ lives, not only when it comes to academics but also when it comes to their faith lives.
I am honoured to be a student at the Faculty of Theology at St. Michael’s College and I am honoured to be a Catholic teacher.
Thank you and God bless.