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Student Testimonial by Megan Furman,
Alemany Dinner, June 9, 2012, San Francisco
Good evening, everyone. My name is Megan Furman. I've just finished my first year at DSPT, where I'm pursuing a Master's of Arts in Theology, concentrating in Religion and the Arts.
One of my favorite things about an event like this is learning what has brought all of you here. I often wonder whether there is a common denominator among many of our stories – among the paths that have brought us not only to this room, but to where we are in life, in general.
I think I could summarize my journey as a search for two basic things: number one, wisdom; and number two, community.
In describing my journey to the DSPT, there are several points from which I could begin, but one of them is particularly coincidental. I promise you that it is coincidental, because I didn't actually realize the link until I arrived here.
It was 2007, and I had just left my first job in New York City. I had resigned and did not know what was to come next. In the midst of my attempt to figure out what life had to bring, I found myself in a workshop at my home parish in Akron, Ohio, focused on discerning one's spiritual gifts and charisms.
For those of you who aren't familiar with it, the workshop of which I am speaking was co-founded by Fr. Michael Sweeney, our president.
What that workshop offered me was permission to pursue the things about which I was passionate. It taught me to say no to the things that didn't fit, and to say yes to the things that really did – because those things were given to me for the sake of others.
And in that workshop, I found my group of authentic friends. By this I mean people like C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and, dare I say, Thomas Aquinas. I realized that I had a passion for wisdom, and since these people had undertaken the search for wisdom before me, I sensed a sort of kinship. I wanted to look to them to learn from their wisdom, the wisdom that had been accumulated throughout the centuries.
So I applied for graduate school (not here at the DSPT – this was years ago, yet). I was accepted and ended up reading for a Master's degree in English Literature at Oxford University in England. My year there was absolutely wonderful. But at the same time, I came to realize that much of academia in the modern world is not necessarily what I was looking for. It was an unparalleled experience, but the search for wisdom continued.
For the next four years, I worked for a consultant on Middle Eastern Affairs. As a research and writing assistant for an official in the Foreign Ministry of the Sultanate of Oman, I learned firsthand what it is like to live in an Islamic country – in an Islamic country that has such a profound respect for the wisdom of the ages. I'm not sure how many of you are familiar with Oman – it's one of just two sultanates in the world. The Sultan of Oman has been in rule for forty years, and the Omani culture in general is very attached to its past. But the people update it constantly. Essentially, it seems that what they're doing is continually drawing on tradition and the signs of the times.
Needless to say, I learned a lot from Oman and its people. But working in the political world brought with it a lot of…disillusionment, perhaps. It provided me with a fertile background from which I could take many positive things, but it also allowed me to identify several unfulfilled needs. I knew that I needed a community that could support me in my search for wisdom.
Through a series of people I trust, I was more or less handed along and found the DSPT.
I would say that the DSPT is the first place I have found such an extraordinary, humbling, astounding combination of wisdom and community that I really cannot say enough about it. And this is where all of you come in, because you're all a part of this, already.
Seeing the witness that you provide, what you're doing in your lives right now, means so much to me because that's the wisdom I've been seeking.
Thank you immensely for being a true community seeking wisdom with me and beside me. I am truly grateful for your hospitality, and I wish you a most enjoyable evening.