Monday, August 24, 2015

Further reflections on employment

Ur-spo commented on the earlier Employment post that he had never had to seek employment but that the process sounded nerve-wracking. My friend Lee wrote me about the commonalities of my experience and his when he left the military after a number of years.

I realize that one reason the process was nerve-wracking for me was that I entered the monastery after finishing the university. I had worked in high school and all through college, but those were jobs that were essentially handed to me. The university guaranteed me a job as part of the package when I went there, and even though I had to interview for a couple of them, it was not at all the same as starting from ground zero and going hunting.

Even my summer job after graduation, when I shared the apartment with Lee and a couple of other guys, I worked for the university in a job that grew out of an interdisciplinary research project I had been part of my final term in school.

Once in the monastery, it looked like I would never have to go job hunting again. Many people, of course, did go out and find jobs as professors or chaplains, but I was always pegged for what we called internal ministries, things that helped maintain the community. I worked in recruiting and training new members, as local superior and in provincial administration, in the publications ministry of the Order, taught in the Institute of the Order, was part of the staff of a retreat house of the Order, all sorts of things like that. For these I never drew a salary or punched a clock. I was always at work, in a sense. I preached retreats, gave spiritual direction, said Mass and heard confessions in parishes, which paid a stipend, but I never had to look for those jobs. I was invited to do them. The job I had with the Catholic non-profit at the University of Chicago was a post that I had taken when the director of that organization approached the community to see if anyone were willing to do it. I said yes, because I had a bad habit of taking worthy jobs that no one else wanted, and I did it for a year without pay. We did not have a model of ministry-for-pay, which may explain in part why the community was not more financially well-off.

I was so accustomed to people wanting me to work for them, in fact, asking me to work for them, that it was a splash of very cold water in the face to discover that things were not that way in the regular business world.

Of course, when I did leave and start looking for a job, I was almost 54 years old. Not the best age to begin finding a new career. And even though I had left the priesthood and religious community on very good terms, many of the logical places for me to look for work -- like retreat houses, Catholic schools and colleges -- were reluctant to hire former priests if there were other candidates available. To be honest, that was just as well. In the long run, I did better to move away from that field and find another path.
I looked for a photo of me working as a priest, but I could find nothing anywhere online and did not want to bother scrounging through old photos and scanning one into the computer, yada yada yada. What I did find online was this rather unfocused photo of me standing in front of the monastery in Brookline, Massachusetts back in about 1983. That old house -- once part of the Cabot estate -- was torn down by the man who purchased it a few years after this picture was taken. No connection, I don't think, but the house and the young man leaning against the stone wall are both but memories now. Click on the photo to enlarge it and see me in my brimming youth.


Kirstin Dodd said...

What a handsome fellow!! ❤❤❤

Michael Dodd said...

Yes, for one brief shining moment ...