Chaplain’s Corner: Corner of the sky…

Bridget Power

Inspired by Cap & Bells’ recent production of Pippin, I pulled up the soundtrack to the musical on Spotify this weekend. As I listened to Pippin lament about his struggle to find his purpose and place in the world, I thought about how the song “Corner of the Sky” could be an anthem for many of us as we try to figure out who we are and where we’re headed. At this point in the academic year, your pre-professional concerns might be magnified as you prepare to declare your major, defend your thesis, or interview for a job. But hopefully, you also possess Pippin’s desire “to be where my spirit can run free.”

Some people make plans and then execute them according to prearranged timelines. But for most of us, our paths are not linear. We learn by trying, failing, experimenting, and pivoting; our search is ongoing. We stumble into our corner of the sky. 

Consider Dr. Jim O’Connell, who came to campus two weeks ago to talk about his work as the founding physician of Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program. Joined by author Tracy Kidder, who chronicles O’Connell’s efforts in his latest book Rough Sleepers, O’Connell reflected on his career and his mission of caring for some of the most vulnerable people in Boston. 

When he graduated college 15 years earlier, he did not plan to start the nation’s first medical respite facility for those who are unhoused in 1985. He also certainly didn’t expect the organization to provide care for nearly 11,000 people annually. The corner that O’Connell finds himself in today is one that he has cultivated over years with the guidance, encouragement, and support from  many patients and colleagues. 

As he explained during his conversation with Kidder and Professor of Economics Sara LaLumia in Chapin Hall, O’Connell cares for patients as part of a team, which allows him and his colleagues to “share in the joys and the sorrows of what is going on.” These relationships help sustain him in his challenging work and allow him to keep striving to uphold the dignity of the patients in his care.

Hopefully, here at the College you are building friendships with peers who can similarly support you in times of joy, but also confusion, sadness, and pain — people who will ask you questions, prompt introspection and reflection, and cheer you on. There are other people on this campus — faculty, staff, coaches, clinicians and therapists at Integrative Wellbeing Services, chaplains, etc. — who are here to help you, too. 

I’m not convinced that any of us need to find a single corner in the sky. As Walt Whitman wrote, “I contain multitudes.” As we seek to discover our vocations — how God is calling us to be of service in this world, it may be helpful to remember that this is a continual process, an unfolding. Dedication to goals and commitments is admirable and necessary, but we also need to be attuned to the ways that the Holy Spirit is active and moving in our lives. What might have been your corner in high school might now feel impossible now. And while adjusting to this reality might be difficult, you now have an opportunity for unexpected newness. 

Hopefully, this school year has provided you with people and experiences that will help you to discover who you are and where your corners might be, even well after you graduate. In the struggle to finish papers and prepare for exams, I hope you can recognize a bit more about where and how you feel free.

Bridget Power is the College’s Catholic Chaplain.