Continuing the search for meaning behind required course

By JESSICA YOCHERER

Marquette does it. St. Norbert does it. Edgewood does it. So does Mount Mary. It’s a theology class, and you’re not graduating without it.

The required class, Search For Meaning, may seem like just another class to tack onto an already inflated tuition bill, but for those who have taken it continue to see the value in it. Unlike most Catholic colleges, Search for Meaning is a creative combination of not just theology, but philosophy as well.

“I think it is important for students to consider questions of meaning regardless of their major and vocation. The more I teach it, the more I sense that we’re trying to deal with questions at the very heart of education,” said theology Professor John Jones.

Search for Meaning Professor Krystal Klapatch has seen that the most controversial topic for students is religious beliefs. “It seems to bring up the most emotions because it’s a personal thing and they don’t feel like they should talk about it at school. It’s more something for home,” Klapatch said.

The name and premise of the class comes from Psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl’s book, “Man’s Search For Meaning,” which chronicles his years in Nazi death camps. In 1984, he received an honorary doctorate from Mount Mary College, which continues to be a proud event in the school’s history.

In the book, Frankl tells the reader about his journey through the most challenging and poignant chapter of his life. Since he came from a therapeutic background, he is able to comment on not only the events, but the reaction of death and suffering from those around him. Throughout the semester, the topic of how one handles grief and suffering is examined.

While the class is still heavily rooted in the book’s message, it has been used as a compass in choosing philosophical and theological reading materials further discussed later in the semester.

“It teaches us not just about one religion, but many types,” said Mount Mary junior Shelia Andreas.

The structure of the class is based on reading assignments and full class discussions on the readings. In the section taught by Klapatch and Jones, class participation is 40 percent of the overall grade. The goal is for the students to not only learn from the texts, but from the lives and opinions of their fellow classmates.

Klapatch is impressed with the growth she has seen in the students. “Students start off being really intimidated by the reading and think they are not going to enjoy the class or do well. By the end of the class they are competently discussing the text and applying it to their own lives. It’s really rewarding to see and I think it’s an important part of a liberal arts education,” Klapatch said.

The theology section’s main text is the Bible, but is integrated with such readings. The varied selection gives the student a chance to explore other theological perspectives.

In regard to the reading material on the theology side, most students have read the Bible at some point in their lives, or at the very least, have heard of it. This class takes time to dissect themes and how they relate to our own search for truth in an increasingly confusing world.

“It was a good experience for me, coming from someone who doesn’t come from a religious background. It made me accept death and getting old,” Andreas said.

While students may not be able to relate exactly to Frankl’s holocaust experience, professors transform it into a relatable topic by talking about it, analyzing it and having you apply it to life and other texts. In doing this, students are able to relate it to their own life experiences. And through these types of discussions, students are given perspective into their own lives and taught what it means to be a “good” person.

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