Almost every Catholic Studies student has heard the question “What are you going to do with a Catholic Studies degree?” It is a valid question and one that I have thought about often. As an undergraduate at St. Thomas, I double majored in Catholic Studies and theology, and minored in Latin. I was interested in pursuing a career in Canon Law, but during my senior year, information began circulating about the new law school at St. Thomas. I attended a few meetings about the new law school, prayed a great deal, decided to take the LSAT and started applying to law schools.
One of the main features that attracted me to St. Thomas was the joint J.D./M.A. in Catholic Studies. It was the perfect fit. The summer after my first year of law school I started taking courses in the graduate Catholic Studies program. As I progressed through my course work in law and Catholic Studies, I was struck by the many ways the two programs complemented each other. Many of my law classes would at some point offer a reference to a papal document or a statement from the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. A discussion would usually ensue about how the document, or even more broadly, how Catholic principles, shape the way one might look at certain types of law or a legal situation.
One of the most striking examples of the two programs complementing one another can be found in two classes that I recently took: Bioethics (law) and Contemporary Moral Problems (Catholic Studies). There are many legal aspects in the study of bioethics such as informed consent, negligence, and medical malpractice, there are concerns about the dignity and sanctity of human life and the nature of suffering, topics that the Catholic Church has written extensively on. The dual degree program has allowed me to deeply examine law from the perspective of the Catholic faith, in both an academic and spiritual sense.
In the meantime, the question “What are you going to do with a Catholic Studies master’s degree” still looms. There are many opportunities where the knowledge from a Catholic Studies degree comes in quite handy. I have been blessed with many incredible opportunities this past year: I am currently working as a law clerk at Mohrman & Kaardal, P.A. (thanks to Dr. Charles Reid, a professor at the law school); I was introduced to Prof. John Witte, Jr. at Emory University; and am currently involved in a Latin translation project. I am participating in the Slovak Seminar this summer in Slovakia where, under the direction of Michael Novak, participants will explore aspects of a free society, which will include reading documents such as the Federalist Papers and encyclicals from Pope John Paul II. Most recently, I have begun doing some legal consulting with an American lawyer for the Vatican.
I do not know what the future holds, but I am confident that I have gained an incredible skill set that will serve me well. Attaining a dual degree in law and Catholic Studies has been an incredible journey and a great deal of work, but it would not have been possible without the support and prayers of family, friends, and colleagues. The dual degree has been an amazing opportunity to explore the intersection of law and religion and to be taught by some of the best professors and scholars in the field has been a great blessing and honor.