Interview: Madeline Jarrett

In the future, I never want to stop learning, being inspired, and challenging myself to action.

Can you tell our readers a little about yourself?

 My name is Madeline Jarrett, and I am from Indianapolis, Indiana. My parents are the two most generous, selfless, and joyous people I have ever encountered.  I am one of seven children—I have 3 sisters and 3 brothers. My parents are the two most generous, selfless, and joyous people I have ever encountered. Growing up with so many siblings, I was constantly reminded not to take myself too seriously. My parents encouraged joy, generosity, perspective, and perseverance. I also have a total of 5 nieces and nephews, all of whom I love very dearly. I am particularly close with my youngest sister, who is 12. She was a surprise to my parents, who were relatively older when they had her. Her joy and bright energy has been such an incredible gift in my life.

 I went to a Catholic high school in Indianapolis and then went on to study psychology and theology at the University of Notre Dame. The community that I found at Notre Dame is one that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. I received an outpouring of love and support during a difficult time in my freshman year, and I am forever grateful. For three years, I worked in the moral and adolescent development psychology lab. I did my senior thesis on the relationship between perceptions of God and experiences of stress, anxiety, and depression. While I absolutely love psychology, I decided to pursue a theology degree after I had a couple of very formative ministry experiences. The first was my experience with Notre Dame Vision – a week-long faith conference for high schoolers. I was a mentor for the small groups over the course of a summer and walked with them as they explored their relationship with God, others, and themselves. After graduating from ND, I decided to do a year of service with a program called Amate House in Chicago. During this time, I taught English as a second language, art, and creative writing to mostly immigrant and refugee children. Over the course of that year, I came to love those kids very deeply. I still carry them in my heart, and I see their faces in all of the social justice issues I encounter in graduate school. After Amate House, I decided to pursue my Master of Divinity at Boston College. I am pursuing this degree because it opens the most doors for possible future careers in ministry or teaching. This past summer, I did a unit of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) as a hospital chaplain in Indianapolis. This was an incredibly formative experience, as it brought me face-to-face with the reality of suffering and death. Importantly, it also brought me the chance to enter the hearts of some of the most beautiful humans I’ve ever met.

 You are in school still, correct? What are you studying and why did you choose to study it? 

 Yes! I am currently getting my Master of Divinity at Boston College. As a high schooler, I actually wanted to go to law school, and through most of my time at ND, I thought I would be getting my PhD in psychology after graduation. I chose to pursue the MDiv because I realized that ministry and/or theological studies would allow me to use my background in psychology and also care for people spiritually. After the past year and a half of studies, my passion for the MDiv has been confirmed. I have been challenged in so many important ways, and I am being shaped into the kind of woman who always seeks to encounter the other with an open heart, who draws near to people who are in the midst of chaos and crisis, and who rises up in the face of challenge.

What impact has your course of study made on your life and your future plans?

 This is such an enormous question! And an excellent one!

 My study has changed me and challenged me to grow in ways I can’t even begin to describe. In college, when I was struggling to bear the burden of some physical injuries and their implications, I found the embrace of God in my theological studies. As my heart wanted to distance itself from what my body was going through, I learned about Platonic dualism and why Christianity values the body. As I struggled with questions of why God would allow my experiences with physical struggle to happen, I took a seminar on theodicy and wrote my senior thesis on images of God and suffering. In general, my schoolwork has given me the mental space to process what goes on in my heart, and it has helped me bring the two into conscious conversation.

 After the foundation had been laid in undergrad, graduate school began to challenge me in critically important ways. I have learned about what others have to say – now it is my turn to think and speak. For me, graduate studies have been about embracing discomfort, challenge, and intellectual growth. In its fullness, it has been embracing the possibility that what I learn can, and probably will, change me. It has opened my eyes to many realities to which I was previously blind. While it has made living in the world, and in the church, more difficult, it has also empowered me to do something to change it. It has shaped so much of how I view the world and my role in it. As previously mentioned, my mind and heart and spirit are constantly in dialogue. This dialogue is what fuels me to action.

 Do you ever wish you chose something else?

 There are some days that I wish I was an artist. Or a poet. I think these are powerful professions that have the opportunity to speak to people in profound ways. Art can be prophetic. It can communicate things that words can’t.

 When you were younger what did you want to become?

 When I was younger, I dreamed of being a graceful ballerina. I have always been enchanted by the beautiful, flowing movements of ballet. Unfortunately, I am far from coordinated enough to pursue this.

 We are never really done growing up. What do you hope to do in the future?

 First of all, I love the statement that we are never really done growing up. It captures the crucial fact that all of life is about growth and movement. Stagnancy is dangerous for the continuously streaming spirit. I firmly believe it is crucial to always try to keep searching, keep learning, and keep growing. Before I began graduate school, my dad asked me about my primary goal for this next step of my education. I said it was to be inspired. That is, to continue to fall in love with what sets my spirit on fire. Here, I like to think of the poem attributed to Pedro Arrupe:

Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

In the future, I never want to stop learning, being inspired, and challenging myself to action. Throughout my life, I also want to continue to cultivate habits of celebration and play. The productivity plague of the 21st century is killing the playfulness of the human spirit. That’s something we can’t afford to lose. In terms of concrete future goals, I have always wanted to write a book, so that’s definitely on the list. Also, I have recently become an advocate for the neurological condition I have, so I would like this to expand in the future. I would love to do some public speaking about my experience with my neurological condition, my experience during my service year and the corruption I witnessed at my service site, or on my experience as a hospital chaplain. Basically anything. Job-wise, that’s up to God. There are so many things I’m interested in, and I still have 1.5 more years of school—I’m not worried about figuring that out yet. The Spirit has led me this far, the Spirit will lead me home.

 If you could give your younger self some advice, what would it be?

 I think that the most important advice would be mercy. I would remind myself of the importance of mercy on myself and mercy on those around me. I would also remind myself that everyone has a story. This is even true of people who’ve hurt me. If I knew their stories, I think I couldn’t help but love them.

 I would also remind myself to always remain open to the constant presence of grace. And that, in this life and/or the next, everything will be okay. And not to take myself too seriously – when something embarrassing happens, always choose laughter.

 What gets you out of bed in the morning?

 The fact that there’s a lot of work to be done in this world. Mostly in terms of loving people.

 Also the incredibly exciting idea that I never know what gifts and joys this day will bring me. It could bring me a new friendship, an unexpected grace, a spiritual encounter with nature, a call to re-examine my perspective, the love of my life, or a life-changing revelation. Virtually every day can be full of possibility, adventure, and wonder.

 Also, the smell of bacon.

 What is a piece of advice you would give to girls growing up today?

 First, you are worth more than you can ever know. You deserve love. You are loved.

 Regarding hook-ups: We often participate because we want to feel wanted and valued and loved. This is something that virtually every member of the human race shares. Regardless of how you choose to express your sexuality, remember what you deserve. Hooking-up cannot and will not make you feel truly loved and valued.

 Pay attention to what society is telling you, and why, especially in commercials and magazines. Think of Victoria’s Secret, make-up companies, and designer clothes brands. Do they really want to help you feel valuable? Or do they want to make money off of making you feel insecure? Often they target the most insecure parts of ourselves—our bodies—so they can make money off of that insecurity. We are so inundated with the destructive messages of advertisers that it is very hard not to believe them. Pay attention to what they tell you about yourself. Do not believe it.

 Also, pay attention to the difference between how boys and girls are treated in our culture. If you notice inequality say something or do something. That’s the only way it’ll change.

 Do you have any femalefigures you look up to? Real or fictional.

 Dorothy Day, Emma Watson, Brene Brown, Glennon Doyle Melton, Malala Yousafza, Becca Stevens, and many of my professors and fellow students. I have learned from these amazing women how important it is to use one’s voice (in the right ways) in the fight for justice and self-love.

 A few Favorites:

 What it your favorite Musical/Movie?

 Les Miserables for a musical and the Lorax for a movie.

 What is your favorite band?

 Taylor Swift (yes, I’m one of those)

 What is your favorite quote?

Its so hard to choose just one!

 “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. Its not.” –The Lorax

 “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” –Roald Dhal

 What is your life motto?

 Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” This “motto” captures what I believe is a fundamental truth. It is only when we allow the pain, joy, suffering, and gift of the “other” (especially the other who seems most different from us) to draw us out beyond the comforts and security that true life is found. Risks and movements towards the unknown are essential if one wants to grow. “A step into the void is a step into the holy”- James Loder. For me, the telos of this growth is the ultimate other—God.