I'm writing from Colorado today, on Day 3 of my journey into the next stage of my career. After five years at U.S. Catholic, I'm returning to school for a one-year Specialized Journalism program at the University of Southern California.
I'll be studying religion and politics further there, and I hope to take all of the lessons I've learned at U.S. Catholic and will learn in the program into covering the intersection of these topics in the secular media--though I will no doubt continue to write for U.S. Catholic as well. I hope to share some of the lessons I learn over the next year with you here, as well as on megansweas.com (not quite comeplete yet).
But as a good bye, I wanted to share my final editor's note for our excellent August issue with our online readers (who will have to order the magazine for the interview this month). I have learned from all of you, whether I have chatted with you, provoked anger in you, or even moderated your comments! Thank you for five great years!
I joined our interview with Claretian Father Francisco Carin late and exhausted. My co-workers didn't know it at the time, but I had returned that morning on a red-eye flight from Los Angeles, where I was visiting the University of Southern California. I had just found out that I had earned a fellowship to join USC's Specialized Journalism program. I'm excited to be returning to school to learn more about covering religion and politics.
At the same time, listening to Carin speak about the delicate balance of religion and politics in China made me bittersweet about leaving U.S. Catholic. It's appropriate that this interview ("In the (Middle) Kingdom of God," pages 18-21), which so epitomizes everything I've loved about working at this magazine, is running in the last issue I'm working on as associate editor.
Visiting the university, I sat in on a class in which we discussed the political and historical context of the recent arrest of Chinese artist and political dissident Ai Weiwei. Despite my exhaustion the next day, I was excited to bring my new knowledge into our interview with Carin. After just one day on campus, I had already learned something new and applied it to my work-exactly why I'm going back to school.
If a primary part of a journalist's job is to learn, U.S. Catholic has given me ample opportunity to do so. The interviews--whether with a fairly anonymous Claretian missionary working in China or my idol, world-renowned religion scholar Karen Armstrong--are like personal seminars for the editors. They are one of my favorite parts of the job.
My co-workers have taught me a lot, too. I've learned more than I knew was possible about ecclesiology, eschatology, Christology, and other fun "-ologies." I've gained an appreciation for liturgy and the Second Vatican Council. After repeatedly insisting that a broken "miter" was the perfect illustration for Bryan Cones' column on sex abuse, I won't ever again confuse a miter and a crosier.
They've also taught me about cooking, keeping chickens, and raising amazing children. Heidi Schlumpf, the former managing editor who hired me, inspired me first as a journalist and now as a mother ("And lead us not into temper tantrums,"). From Carin to editor Father John Molyneux, the Claretians impress me in their commitment to justice. Writers and readers have shared nuggets of wisdom about life and faith in essays, guest blog posts, and letters. In other words, those I've met over the past five years have taught me what it means to be a Catholic today.
I am eager to return to school, but at U.S. Catholic I've learned a simple but important lesson: To quote our mission statement, Catholicism is "a way to live a better and richer life." I can't thank all of my teachers enough for it.