US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Engineering a path of discipleship

At the heart of one engineer’s discernment is stewardship: How do we maintain our quality of life through respectful and responsible means?

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Article Your Faith

Growing up, two inclinations molded the majority of my activities: a passion for interacting with the natural world and an interest in building things. As a kid I spent my free time outside, endlessly nagged my dad to take me fishing, and assembled whatever I could, making castles with paper and tape as a kindergartner and building a bike from scratch as a teen. 

Today I work as a project engineer in renewable energy construction. My job focuses on the planning and execution of building wind farms and solar fields projects, specifically the electrical scope. My team and I develop the means and methods by which the technology is built and ensure the installation matches the project’s design. Interacting with renewable energy developers and emerging technologies is a lot of fun. 

I see a lot of commonality between my early interests and what I do for an occupation now. I wouldn’t say that I reached my chosen career due to any major epiphany but rather ongoing discernment. 

As a kid I found it difficult to connect my interests to potential occupations, and instead I aligned my future plans with the areas where I excelled academically: math, science, and visual arts. It was no surprise I felt led to pursue engineering. 

As a civil engineering student in college, I really started to put the pieces together. The engineering curriculum fit my strengths. I knew to be happy long term, I likely needed environmental exposure—literally being outdoors and working in an industry supporting it. 

But the catalyst that spurred my pursuit of the renewable energy field is the Jesuit teaching of being “men and women for others.” In my experience, Catholic Jesuit education is grounded in the understanding that education is pursued in hopes of serving others. Without the subtle nudge in college, I doubt I would have landed where I am today. 

Timing is another aspect of my occupational discernment that I can’t ignore. I simply happened to be at the right place at the right time. I was actively searching for jobs at a time when the renewable energy industry was growing, and fortunately it sought what I had to offer. 

Something I am able to recognize now (but that I didn’t necessarily identify at the time), is that I didn’t really reach out and choose my occupation, but rather I happened upon a career that has suited my skills and interests. I see this as following the call to be my part of the global community. “We are many parts but all one body,” and this is the part I’m called to fulfill.   

Discernment—at least for me—is always an ongoing process. So while I continue to reflect on how to best fulfill my call, my reflection now includes a deeper understanding of our global environmental situation, technological solutions, the constructs of business and legislation, human relationships, and my drive to interact with and influence the industry. But at the heart of the discernment is stewardship: How do we as inhabitants of the Earth and people of God maintain the quality of life we have collectively achieved through the use of respectful and responsible means? 

This article is part of a series of reflections on faith and vocation that appeared in our August 2017 issue. The essays will be collected here as they are published.

Image: Jason Blackeye on Unsplash

Published: 
Wednesday, August 9, 2017