My name is Jennifer Franco. I’m originally from Omaha, Nebraska but have lived in Chicago since 2002. I was born and raised Catholic. In 2015, I was working as a home care occupational therapist and struggling to recover from a prolonged illness that left me in debt. A friend of mine asked me to join her for an interview with Linda Couri regarding the program for a Masters of Arts Degree in Pastoral Studies at University of Saint Mary of the Lake (USML). I had never considered going back to school and can’t now recall why I said “yes.” However, attending that meeting was a pivotal moment in my life.
I discerned through prayer to apply to USML, but realized that I would need a scholarship to cover the cost of tuition. I knew this might not be possible. I applied as an act of faith. I was accepted with the scholarship I needed! I had no idea what God was trying to do in my life but was so excited and grateful.
As I was taking classes and learning more about the Catholic Church and its theology, I found a beauty and richness I had not known before. I also discovered that I had a desire to know more. I wanted to share these insights with others, so that they too could be drawn more deeply into a relationship with God through their Catholic Faith and share the benefit from it as I had.
I completed the Master’s Degree in Pastoral Studies in 2019. In applying the education and skills I have acquired from the degree, I have been able to volunteer for my parish as a leader of a young adult group and a catechist for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. As an employee, I work as coordinator of volunteers for the parish soup kitchen. In all of these areas, I am seeking to find new ways to help others understand the love God has for them and the richness of the Catholic Faith. For example, a woman from the young adult group has discerned a call to religious life and has entered as a novice.
I have recently returned to USML to complete the Master’s Degree in Theological Studies to deepen my knowledge of Catholic Doctrine. I desire to share what I learn with others, possibly through teaching in the future.
None of my education at USML would have been possible without the financial aid and support of scholarships. I understand that these scholarship programs are made possible through the generosity of those who donate to USML. So, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. It is because of your generosity that I have been able to discover, pursue, and share my passion for theology and the Catholic Faith. This has changed my life for the better in so many ways. I hope to continue to share the beauty and truth of the Catholic Faith to others so that they may know the depth of love that God has for them.