“What can modern astronomy tell us about creation…and it’s Creator?” Faith and Astronomy Workshop, Vatican Observatory Foundation, January 16-20th 2017
On October 11th, I received an acceptance letter confirming that I was one of 25 people selected to attend the Vatican Observatory Foundation’s 3rd Annual “Faith and Astronomy Workshop” in Tucson Arizona, where the Jesuit priests and brothers work at the astronomical observatory. I had applied thinking that it would be interesting to go through the process but never for a second did I entertain even a passing thought that I would be selected! First of all, I’m not a priest–heck I’m not even a very good Catholic 🙂 And I’m definitely not a scientist and even the term “amateur astronomer” doesn’t accurately apply to me–I consider myself more a stargazer with a very basic understanding of astronomy. This unique and profound workshop was also open to those who work with priests in education–and I might have slipped in under that category. All applicants had to write a short essay about their interest in the topic and I stressed my passion for writing and blogging about this topic in general and the impact of life elsewhere in the Universe of people of faith in particular. The selection process went to 2 rounds of screening so I feel especially humbled and honoured to have been selected. I have a feeling that my selection may have been related to my connection to journalism and writing. The pressure is on now:)
I leave on January 15th to travel to a retreat centre in the desert outside of Tucson- a long journey from my little town in Northern Ontario and I guess I will have to figure out how to change my clothes for the usual minus 20 and 30 below temperatures that we experience here to adapt to the sunshine and warmth of Arizona. The least of my worries 🙂
While the enormity of this is still sinking in, I will have plenty of reading to do to prepare. A compressed file that has been forwarded to participants contains 12 chapters and number of podcasts dealing with , as the title implies, ” Exploring the Big Questions of the Cosmos with a Vatican Scientist”. So there is lot to do and reflect upon before I leave. Not the least of which is the opportunity to meet with 24 others from various parts of North America and the world who share this interest ,but to interact with and learn from Br. Guy Consalmagno, a leading astronomer and Jesuit who is the current director of the Vatican Observatory. He is a dynamic and passionate speaker ( you can catch several of his talks on the online TEDX channel) who is a tireless promoter of outreach to the public and the co-author of the book ” Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?”, a book referenced in the “Interesting things to read” section of this blog.
Well–I have to confess that this is still a bit surreal to me and I find myself fighting off what a friend of mine, also a writer, calls the “imposter syndrome”—You know–that feeling like you are an imposter and that the people who have put their confidence in you have misplaced it and what if they find out that you’re not really who they think you are and so on….You know the feeling. I have had it every day since I was selected for this amazing and what I think could be a potentially life altering experience..But I am going to do my best to keep it at bay and just focus on reading and studying and preparing for this. My life philosophy has always been –when a path opens up for you, sometimes it’s best not to overthink it and just follow it to see where it takes you….
Oh and I almost forgot to mention. One of the components of the course is being able to look through the really big telescopes at those great big Arizona skies at the celestial wonders that are inspiring this whole journey. For this gal, who does most of her stargazing through binoculars from the backyard deck–that is pretty darn exciting!!
When I exchanged a few emails with the retreat coordinator about my travel and arrival arrangements, he noticed my website and handle as a writer and columnist and added wryly at the end of his response, “you will have plenty to write about after you complete this workshop”
I’m counting on it! 🙂
M.A.N. January 2017