Answering the Call
SJU’s Alliance for Catholic Education Helps Alumna Decide to Enter Religious Life
Having secured a job with a public accounting firm as a rising senior at Saint Joseph’s University in the summer of 2009, Valerie Luckey ’10, M.S. ’12 was well on her way to a promising business career. But she wasn’t settled in her decision: her heart didn’t synch with her head.
Toward the end of Luckey’s senior year, now-retired Decision and System Sciences Professor Nicholas Robak, Ph.D., suggested an alternative: SJU’s new Alliance for Catholic Education (ACESJU) program, an endeavor that launched in the fall of 2010. The two-year program places recent college graduates into under-resourced Philadelphia and Camden Catholic elementary and high schools as full-time teachers or administrators while they work toward their master’s degrees.
Teaching fellows earn a master’s degree in education from Saint Joseph’s. Administrative fellows earn an M.S. in church management from Villanova University. All fellows earn a leadership certificate from the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania. Leadership gifts from several individual donors and foundations, including the Maguire, Connelly and Kelly Foundations, brought the program to fruition. ACESJU fellows live together in program-provided housing which allows for a spirit of community around mutual experiences, mission and support as they share in meals, prayers and other activities.
A native of Emmaus, Pa., Luckey applied and was accepted to the ACESJU program but she was still hesitant to enroll. An ACESJU email she received soon after graduation solidified her decision. During Luckey’s two years as an ACESJU Teaching Fellow, she taught fourth grade at DePaul Catholic School in the Germantown section of Philadelphia and learned “teaching is a profession that helps you practice skills helpful for any profession.” Her mentor fostered intangible skills like “compassion, patience, nurturing and hope.”
Like more than half of all ACESJU teaching fellows, Luckey continued teaching upon the completion of the ACESJU program. She taught a third year at DePaul before moving on to teach at Frankford Friends and St. Rose of Lima in consecutive years.
Something else happened to Luckey during those years: She began to feel the call of God and came to understand “God’s all-encompassing love and reach. Once you come to know God this way, there is little left to do but open your heart as wide as you can,” she said.
This past August, she took her first formal steps in beginning her five-year formation period at Mount Saint Benedict Monastery in Erie, Pa. After a year as a postulant, she’ll formally enter the community as a novice and become a sister.
“Many aspects of the ACESJU experience led to my decision,” Luckey said of her choice to enter religious life. “Experiencing community played a factor. Encountering a new spirituality through my school’s parish helped form my faith. Meeting a mentor whose spirit met mine might have been the biggest factor. I now know I would have ended up entering somehow, but ACESJU was definitely part of the way God called me to this.”
Now, as a postulant, she’s “experiencing a new joy with toddlers” at the Saint Benedict Center, the community’s early childhood education ministry. Though she’s no longer impacting the lives of fourth graders, she knows “teacher” can take many forms.
“I find the experience to be life-giving when I am with kids. Fourth graders brought me a particular joy and now I am experiencing a new joy with toddlers at our daycare center. For me, it is not so much what I teach, but that my ministry is one with children.”
– Kevin Kaufman