This semester, Macalester’s Center for Religious and Spiritual Life (CRSL) has added another level of support for its students. Not only has Rev. Kelly J. Stone’s appointment as the Chaplain and Associate Dean of the CRSL added to the center’s stability, but new positions have been added in order to better provide for the needs of the Macalester community.
For the better part of two years, Mac Catholics have not had a priest on campus to lead Mass and act as a resource for Catholic students. At the beginning of the school year, the CRSL and Mac Catholics were looking for a new Catholic Chaplain for the college. The idea had been considered for a while but hadn’t been definitively acted upon.
“We lost Father Bob [O’Donnell] at the end of my first year,” said Caroline Wright ’16, one of the student leaders of Mac Catholics. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis reassigned O’Donnell in 2013. “We went last year without a Chaplain but we had this great priest, Father John Forliti, fill in. And everyone really liked him. But still the search for a Catholic Chaplain didn’t really get picked up.”
Now, a little deeper into the semester and into conversations between Mac Catholics and Stone, the college stepped back from searching for a chaplain. Instead, a new partnership between the CRSL and the local Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet has been forged.
“I think we started out thinking, ‘Let’s bring on a full time Chaplain, let’s kind of get this pinned down,’” Stone said. “But as we were talking, and in conversations between the leadership of Mac Catholics and the Sisters of St. Joe’s and myself, it felt like we were moving too fast. It was an opportunity to slow down and be reflective and say, let’s just embrace this year as a traditional year.”
Jill Underdahl, sister religious of the Sisters of St. Joseph’s, will be joining the CRSL in a part-time capacity for the rest of the semester. Her job will be to offer support to the Catholic community and to provide religious conversation and events when holding mass will not be possible. She will also hold weekly office hours.
“A sister of St. Joseph’s as a regular presence with us will offer a stabilizing force … and also expose students to the breadth of the Catholic tradition when mass is not available,” Stone said. “We’re really excited about that and we’re going to see how it goes.”
If the partnership seems like a good fit for both Underdahl and Mac Catholics, the hope is that it will continue for the rest of the year and beyond.
“I’m really excited about collaborating with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet,” said Lily Program Associate Eily Marlow, who helped to start the conversations between Macalester and the Sisters. “I feel like [they are] just a perfect partner for us…they can match our students’ enthusiasm.”
In addition to Underdahl joining the CRSL to support the Catholic community, Marc Anderson, a Zen Buddhist priest, will also be joining as a part-time staff member.
“They’re here very part-time, but we’re thinking about how do we begin to pull them into the office in an intentional way,” Stone said, adding that she hopes that these two new staff members will help the CRSL reach out to students who don’t visit the Center as frequently.
These new positions are part of the changes that will help build a more stable base for the students of the CRSL.
“I’m just hoping that we can still grow as a community and share our lives together in a meaningful way,” Wright said.
“Ultimately, at the end of the day, I want our students to feel really supported,” Stone said.