By Fr. Tom Dymowski, O.SS.T.
I’m beginning my fourth year of ministry at the University of the Incarnate Word as the chaplain, just long enough to see a few classes graduate and join the ranks of the UIW alumni. Of course, our most recent graduates are the alumni I know best, especially those who have been a part of Mission and Ministry for two years and more as peer ministers. I’ve seen them grow in wisdom and maturity in the course of the generous service to the UIW faith community as musicians, choir members, community service volunteers, bible study leaders, and facilitators of men’s and women’s faith sharing support groups.
But I also meet many UIW alumni who have graduated longer ago. Their affection for the school and their gratitude for the Catholic education they received illustrate the bond to one’s alma mater that I never experienced as a graduate of a secular university. My experience there was not unpleasant, but I’ve never stepped foot on campus again after 37 years, never feeling the need to. I heard a much different story from an Incarnate Word graduate I met by chance in a store just the other day.
She told me when she’s back on campus she feels like she is home. Despite the change the years have brought she feels Incarnate Word is still the same school she loved so much as she prepared herself for her teaching career. What she learned from the Sisters, professors, and everyone who played a significant part in her college education was the basis for a deeply incarnational spirituality she still lives today, decades later. She taught many years in a variety of settings, including a prison, but she said her approach to her students was always the same. She never failed to honor the human dignity of the person before her. When asked how her time at UIW affected her, she said she learned to treat others as she had been treated, with integrity and respect. As we parted ways, I mused to myself, “the Mission continues.”