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Your Catholic Learning Guide - Jeffrey S. Arrowood, MTS

Why Did You Start From the Abbey?

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I started From the Abbey to be the adult education service and spirituality program that I wish I had.

When I was interviewing for my first job, I had applied to teach English, history and/or psychology at a Catholic high school. During the interview, the principal asked me if I would be willing to teach a morality class to juniors. I told him that I wasn’t really qualified. He said that my experience teaching high school catechesis stood out to him (not much experience or training, in my opinion). When I said that I would be willing to give it a try, the principal hired me on the spot. Apparently they couldn’t find anyone else who was even willing to give it a try.

That first year of teaching morality was truly a trial by fire. I was learning literally one hour ahead of my students. And my students could tell that I didn’t really know what I was talking about. I nearly had a rebellion on my hands by the end of the year. I decided that if I was going to continue teaching this class, I needed to become much more knowledgeable. So I signed up for a master’s degree program with the Institute for Religious and Pastoral Studies out of the University of Dallas (now the Institute for Pastoral Theology out of Ave Maria University).

During my entrance interview for this degree program, the interviewer asked me, “So tell me a little bit about what impact the documents of Vatican II have had in your life.” After a pregnant pause, I responded, “To tell you the truth, I didn’t even know there were documents to read from Vatican II!” I thought the interview would end then and there. Much to my surprise, the person interviewing me said, “Don’t worry about it. We get that answer all the time!”

Two things struck me during my master’s degree studies:

1. Learning the faith and applying to our lives is really exciting! I wasn’t at all looking forward to going back to school a year after graduating from my bachelor degree program. But this course was different. It was about learning the faith (intensely) for the sake of growing in intimacy with God. And this was truly an adventure that increased my hunger to learn while it fed me what I needed.

2. A lot of what I learned – especially in the first year of the program – was stuff that every Catholic adult should be learning! I remember even getting angry at one point, thinking, “Why did I have to come to a master’s degree program to learn this? Why isn’t this being taught in every parish?”

Those two thoughts slowly gave life to the idea of From the Abbey. I realized that part of my adventure in faith was a call to share the JOY of learning our faith and applying it to our lives with other adults – adults like you!

First I took what I learned back to the high school. I was determined not only to know my stuff, but to motivate high school juniors to learn the Church’s moral teachings. By the time I left high school teaching to become a stay-home dad after 10 years of teaching, other teachers were telling me that they were hearing students in the hallway say that morality was their favorite class!

After becoming a stay-home dad for our two adopted children, God laid it on my heart to do the same thing for Catholic adults. So I started to research adult education to figure out how adults learn. I am applying that research to the Catholic adult education programs I am offering through From the Abbey.

I experienced the same frustrations when it came to learning how to live the faith. All of the Catholic spirituality programs out there are based on the works of the spiritual masters – which is great! But you know what I realized? The spiritual masters were all writing to members of their religious orders. And members of religious orders already have a foundation for spiritual growth – they live according to the “rule of life” of their order. So they are already well equipped to handle distractions in their life. They are already in the habit of daily prayer. They have the foundation they need for spiritual growth.

But what about the rest of us – the laity who don’t have a “rule of life” to keep us from being distracted?

Anyway, these are the thoughts and experiences that drove me to create From the Abbey. I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about me and the apostolate.

Also published on Medium.

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