Ryann Rooney graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Theology from Ave Maria University in Spring 2015. Thanks to AMU’s five-year B.A./M.A. program, Ryann is on track to graduate with a Master’s in Theology by Spring 2016. Through the Theology Department’s five-year program, high-achieving undergraduates like Ryann are able to earn their M.A. in one year by taking certain masters-level courses as electives during their junior and senior undergraduate years.
Originally from McHenry, Illinois, Ryann came to southwest Florida in 2011. She was undecided about which major to choose, and put the decision off until the end of her sophomore year. “I saw such value in everything,” she explained. Eventually, she decided on Theology. “It just flowed,” she said. “I saw that it was incorporating all the other disciplines, and I knew I would never regret the decision. Even if I decided I wanted to do something else down the road, studying theology would never have been a waste. Really that’s true for any major, because knowledge is worth pursuing, but for theology in particular.”
[Above: Ryann on the Spanish Steps during her semester abroad in Rome.]
While an undergraduate, Ryann was busy with many extracurricular activities. She was involved with the Students for Life club and genuine.feminine, she participated in the Spring 2014 Rome Study Abroad program, she went on the 2015 Calcutta Mission Trip and she was a Mother Teresa scholar. “I’m still processing my experience of going to Calcutta, encountering Christ among the poorest of the poor and being influenced by Mother Teresa,” Ryann reflected. “It has affected my study of theology because it allowed me to see more of the human person.”
When Ryann first heard about the five-year B.A./M.A. program, she didn’t even take the handout being passed around. “I wasn’t thinking that far ahead,” she confessed. “And I never really considered myself to be particularly intellectual—a ‘theologian.’” But as she began looking at the job market, she came to realize that having an M.A. would be a huge asset. The more she thought about the five-year program, the more it seemed like a no-brainer. “Over the years, I recognized how great of an opportunity it was, and how highly recognized our Theology Department is among other Catholic schools,” Ryann said. “I also realized how fitting it was for my life…God was very influential in my decision to do the program.”
Ryann reported feeling “blessed” to continue her study of theology at AMU: “It’s a continuation of what I experienced for four years here, but now I have found an added depth and richness in my studies.” She is challenged and inspired by her fellow postgraduate classmates, and pushed by her professors to strive for excellence. One of the highlights of the program is the encouragement to do “theology on your knees,” she said, referring to something Professor David Tamisiea said in class. “The challenge of studying theology,” Ryann went on, “is letting it affect your prayer life, your heart and your relationship with God, rather than just having it all in your mind. Ave Maria really encourages the inner contemplation of your studies."
[Above: A photo from the 2015 Calcutta Mission Trip.]
This past summer, Ryann worked as an intern for the Director of Religious Education at a parish in the Archdiocese of Chicago. She was able to assist the pastor in his arrangements for taking a sabbatical next year, in the organization of a pilgrimage to Rome, and in the preparations for his weekly appearance on Relevant Radio. She also played a significant role in running the parish’s Vacation Bible School and summer religious education classes. It was during her internship that Ryann felt the urgent need for young people who are well versed in theology to take up work in parishes around the country. “I was able to see a little bit this summer,” she said, “how I can make a difference, even with the limited knowledge that I have.” Ryann is excited to complete her M.A. in Theology and answer Pope Francis’ call for more lay people to work in the Church.
“Ave Maria University has shaped me so much,” she concluded. “It’s everything of who I am, in the friendships I formed here, but also in my studies and the rich opportunities for enhancing your spiritual life and embracing the sacramental life.”
Interested in learning more about the AMU Theology Department five-year B.A./M.A. program? Contact the Program Director, Dr. Michael Dauphinais.