Nearly two hundred students here at Notre Dame elect Theology as their major. Some do a full double major in philosophy and theology (price of admission: one year of a classical language) while others have different co-majors. We just graduated our seniors this past Sunday. What will our majors do after graduation? The range is quite revealing. Some will go to law school. Two are seeking out a few years of adventure: one will be a firefighter in California and a young woman signed on to a salmon fishing boat in Alaska. One student who is a double major in economics and theology (and the class valedictorian) will work on an organic farm this Summer and then enter the Jesuit novitiate in August. Two will go into the military as commissioned officers and another will begin working with his family to start up an internet company. Two will return to Notre Dame as campus ministry interns and a fairly good number will teach in underserved Catholic schools through Alliance of Catholic Education or work as parish educators through the ECHO program. Two are going to medical school and a few are doing volunteer work for a year with an intention either to come back to school for graduate work in theology. One student is headed to Northwestern for an MA in education and others are looking for jobs in the non-profit arena. Acouple of them have confesssed to toying with the idea of religious life. It is not infrequently the case that students want to declare a major in theology but are dissuaded by their families who envision them working at Starbucks for minimum wage and reading Karl Rahner on their breaks. It is for that reason why I narrated the above instances. They received a solid liberal arts education, they are deeply committed young people, and they will find their way. We had all the graduates in theology at our house on Sunday morning along with their families. When the 170 plus guests left our house, my wife and I headed over to campus to watch our youngest daughter graduate. She heads off to New York City to live with her sister and seek her fortune in communications (she was not a major). Her job plans are not yet firm but she has a good education and is filled with that hope which is is characteristic of the young. We now have an empty nest and that will take some getting used to.
Lawrence Cunningham is John O'Brien professor of Theology (Emeritus) at the University of Notre Dame.