Welcome from Lee Catoe, MDiv’2
Each year, VDS invites returning students to offer words of advice to the incoming class. We hope these stories and lived wisdom will help you navigate your own path at Vanderbilt!
To my siblings,
It is with great joy that I welcome you all to this prophetic community that is Vanderbilt Divinity School. I often ask myself how I got here, and to be completely honest, I have no idea. As I was growing up in rural South Carolina, the thought never crossed my mind that I would be spending my young adult life in theological education. My original goal was to become a doctor and work in public health; however, God works in mysterious ways. I quickly learned that my voice and passion did not belong in the medical profession but found its home in the world of religion and church. VDS has been the catalyst and the guide for my present endeavors and my future ministry, but (going to be real with you) it is no easy task. We all cope differently; however, here is my advice: listen to others; listen to yourself; and breathe.
One of the most life-giving elements of my time here at VDS has been the ability to listen to other voices, to other passions, and to other stories. Listen to your professors, but also listen to your classmates and colleagues. Develop, value, and nurture those relationships because it is through relationships that we can be transformed.
Listen to yourself and rest. There are some days when you will not be able to read all that is on the syllabus, and there are some moments when you just can’t make yourself write one more word. Don’t get so caught up in the work that you miss the foundation and reason that we are here at VDS – to serve and prophecy. Listen to your bodies. When you need to eat, eat. When you need to sleep, sleep. When we listen to ourselves, we can then truly listen to others.
Lastly, sometimes you just need to breathe. VDS can be overwhelming with studies, social engagements, protests, heated discussions, etc. Often times, I find myself just sitting and taking a breath. Take time to reflect and to take it all in because the years pass by quickly. Prayer has been my saving grace in times when I need to process events or get away from the real world. Find ways to center yourself.
It is here at VDS where you will be challenged, stretched, molded, encouraged, mind-blown, and the list goes on and on. It is here that you will find your voice and when the Spirit moves, learn how to shout.
Peace and Love to each and every one of you,