Lauren Monaghan parlays education experience into a future in faith formation
L-R: Gabriella Smith (2018 Knight of Honor), Dr. Helen-Grace Ryan, Lauren Monaghan, President Susan Donovan and Ryan Stevens (2018 Knight of Honor). Photo by Hunter O’Brien.
Lauren Monaghan is hard to miss. Especially when she appears at basketball games wearing her red-and-white game-day bib overalls with the silver knight’s head on the front.
Lauren clearly has a lot of spirit—in many ways. After graduating this spring with a Bachelor of Science in secondary social studies education and a minor in theology, she will head to the University of Notre Dame for a full-ride master’s degree, with a view to becoming a high school religion teacher.
“We [teachers] have such an impact on students’ lives,” she says of the prospect of helping to transform students intellectually and spiritually. “Teachers helped make me who I am and [I share] that care, compassion and love for students.”
With multiple teachers in her immediate family—both her brother and her father teach locally—Lauren found the path a natural one, albeit with a few bends in the road. “I was going to minor in English to make myself a more diverse and attractive teacher candidate, but then I got bitten by the theology bug”—via Dr. Greg Hillis’ Life and Legacy of Merton class. “[Dr. Hillis’] encouragement pushed me out the door,” she says.
That door led to a new room in her life when Dr. Patrick Englert (Ph.D. ’18) invited her to join the Campus Ministry team as a part-time employee. (She also teaches CCD to sixth- and seventh-graders at Ascension.) Further fortified by this new aspect of ministry, Lauren applied to Notre Dame’s selective Echo Graduate Service Program under its Teaching track, enthusiastically stressing her professional semester experience at Iroquois High School in her letter of intent. “I’m forever thankful to Bellarmine for sending us to teach JCPS students,” she notes. “It was an eye-opening experience.”
But, again, her vision was unexpectedly refocused when she was chosen for Echo’s other track, Parish Leadership, in which she will be assigned to one of nine partner archdioceses coast to coast. “I was shocked,” she says. “I thought it was a mistake.” Regardless of her destination, Lauren’s teacher’s heart is ever present: “There’s still a strong teaching component—youth groups, CCD, adult formation, enriching [people’s] own faith experiences.” Dr. Englert, too, is enthusiastic about Lauren’s upcoming Echo experience. “She possesses a contagious energy that will most certainly rally the community around her and provide numerous opportunities for teaching and learning,” he says.
With her wealth of Bellarmine experiences—Campus Ministry work, student teaching, and membership in the education honor society Kappa Delta Pi—Lauren’s crowning (and perhaps most visible) achievement came when President Susan Donovan dubbed her a Knight of Honor—sword and all—at the Knights’ homecoming game in February. She and mathematics major Max Cartor were chosen from a pool of seniors deemed strong leaders on campus and representative of Bellarmine’s mission and values. Lauren did not wear the candy-cane-striped overalls but a still-eye-catching red pantsuit fit for a female knight. “Dame Monaghan at your service,” she quips, laughing.
Dame Lauren will have very little downtime before heading to South Bend. She will take classes for two months starting June 9, then report to her still-undetermined home parish about the same time her fellow Knights still here will start, and take online courses toward the theology degree Dr. Hillis encouraged her to pursue. What comes after that, naturally, is not yet written.
“I realized that my path is not set... I’ll be good wherever I go,” she says. “It’s God’s plan, not mine.” As for why she was chosen for Parish Leadership, it remains a mystery. “Maybe I’ll ask them [why] one day.”
If Lauren has any say in the matter, however, she will return to the classroom for her career. “I’m not crossing anything out. I’d kind of like to teach at the collegiate level.... Theology, higher ed—lots of different paths.” Regardless, she plans to beat a path back to Louisville in two years, joking, “If I meet my husband in the next two years and he doesn’t want to come here, it’s not going to work out.”
But Lauren can’t come back until she leaves, and that part makes her emotional. “It’s going to be hard to leave in May,” she says. Wherever she does wind up, though, she cannot help but take a bit of Bellarmine with her. “Gotta have lots of spirit—it makes life more enjoyable,” she says. “’Go Knights! Swords up!’ I’ll be saying that on my deathbed.”