I’ve been delaying this announcement on the blog for a variety of reasons (some of them might even be good reasons), but its time has arrived.
A few weeks ago (March 17th) I went to the mailbox outside our apartment, put my key in the slot, and turned it with a tiny prayer on my lips. This scene had been a daily routine for about three weeks by this point. From the end of February, every few days another small envelope with a school’s insignia in the return address would arrive, and all of them held only one sheet of paper. They were all succinct, all polite, and all of them informed me that I was among the carefully-considered, entirely-qualified, but finally excluded candidates.
Harvard, Princeton Seminary, Union Seminary, Columbia, Boston College, Princeton University, Yale—eight pages thick in all, and a stack of paper freighted with disappointment, fear, and self-loathing.
But on March 17th, I opened the small door and found a big envelope inside. I sucked in a half mouthful of air and then held my breath as I turned the envelope around and saw “Fordham University” written on the outside. The package itself was thick, at least twenty pages. I thought to myself, “I know that Catholics are renowned for their guilt trips, but I don’t think that anyone one is cruel enough to send a thirty page rejection letter.”
As I walked back to the apartment, I whispered to myself in a squeaky little voice utterly unbecoming for someone of my size, “It’s a big one… it’s a big one…” Inside I found a letter offering me a place in the doctoral program of Fordham’s Department of Theology, and a teaching assistantship with a generous stipend to boot. It would be putting it mildly to say that I was thrilled. I walked (or maybe ran) over to the hospital where Carolyn was studying in order to share the news.
Fordham will be an excellent place for me to study for the next few years. Their theology department is very strong and the university is putting in a concerted effort to make it even stronger. The academic strengths of the department lie in Patristics, medieval theology, and systematics, so the school is very well-equipped to help me draw on the deep resources of the Christian tradition in order to articulate the faith in compelling and illuminating ways. Perhaps most importantly, I have visited the school twice now and both times come away struck with just how friendly, open, and welcoming everyone has been. I am absolutely certain that Fordham will provide a venue where I can study rigorously and prayerfully while conversing with people from a great range of perspectives. Cut-throat competition seems totally absent and the atmosphere of the department is warmer and more personable than anywhere else I’ve been on the East Coast. Add to all that the opportunity to live in the heart of the Bronx—it’s hard to say no!
To complicate matters slightly, in the last week I’ve been offered the opportunity to study in Syracuse University’s department of Religion as well. I have yet to visit Syracuse (which I hope to do next week), but my inclination at the moment is strongly toward Fordham, in large part because of the historical emphasis and sense of tradition in Fordham’s program in comparison to the strengths of Syracuse’s program in religion and contemporary culture.
Of course, I am grateful for the prayers and encouraging words over the last few months from many of the people who are reading this.