Student Profile: Chris Jacobs-Vandegeer

When it rains, it pours.

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Or so they say. I have always wondered why we so often associate rain with bad things. Personally, I love the rain. It feels good on a hot day; it makes flowers and vegetables grow; it paints rainbows in the sky on sunny days; and, of course, no kid can say enough good things about puddles. So I want to exercise a little hermeneutical liberty here, and use the phrase to refer to good things, because sometimes rain pours down all kinds of blessings on our lives.

In August of 2002, I walked inside the foyer of Regis College for the first time. I remember the excitement, anticipation and nervousness all wrapped up in my stomach. It felt as though I had stepped out onto the high dive of the next phase of my life—the challenging, all too often interminable phase called “doctoral studies.” Leaping forward five years, I can happily report that I neither turned away in fear nor drowned on my way to the ladder. In fact, my time at Regis has been filled with “adventures of ideas” (to borrow a phrase from Whitehead), and wonderful sojourning with teachers and fellow students. The depth of the course catalogue at TST afforded me the opportunity to explore various theologies and philosophies, and to study with teachers and students of different faith traditions. Hailing originally from the States, I especially appreciated the integrated diversity of the learning community. I will never forget the wave of humility that came over my lonely Kentucky vernacular when Beda, a fellow doctoral student, shared with me in the most incidental fashion that he fluently understood and spoke nine (or so) languages. Of course, as an American, I fell somewhat shy of that mark (say, by 8 ½).

Above all, the greatest part of my academic journey has been the Regis community. Regis brings folks together to form as much in friendship as in academic growth. Its generosity extends to the whole person, and this makes it a unique place. In fact, and heart in the classroom (with Sr. Gill, for example), I also witnessed it unfold reflectively in Regis’ daily life.

All the hard work began to pay off this past year. I started writing my dissertation on Lonergan’s theology of grace; I published my first article (also on grace); I searched for and found an academic position at a small Catholic liberal arts university in Rhode Island; and I taught my first course this summer on a familiar topic, “Grace.” By far though, the most significant event of this year occurred on May 24 with the birth of my son, Joseph—the sweetest grace that my wife Jennifer and I ever could have imagined. On that day, Joseph opened my eyes to the incarnate meaning of new life, and Jennifer expressed in labour a strength, humility and love that left me a grateful witness. It is commonplace in theology to bring together thematically the apparent contradictories of suffering and life, weakness and nobility—but I had never before experienced these marriages as powerfully as when my beautiful wife gave birth to our son. I include this small reflection, because I think that Regis excels at prayerfully forming sensitivity within its students to the foundational role of experience in Christian theology.

So now my days are filled with dirty diapers and a bouncing baby, final chapters to write on my dissertation (a painful labour experience in itself), final papers to grade and new syllabi to create, and apartment scouting in a city I hardly know—lots of new life and new beginnings. I suppose good things come in bundles too. It’s like they say, “When it rains, it pours.”

Chris, Jennifer and Joseph have moved to Rhode Island where Chris continues to teach full-time after completing his research project and bringing it forward to a successful defense in December 2008.