Learning Knows No Age for Grad
Deacon Albert Vacek never thought that three months after filing for Social Security he would be graduating with a Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies. That is exactly what will happen on May 18 when Vacek walks across the stage at Reliant Arena with 350 undergraduates and 793 graduate students.
Vacek, a lawyer for 42 years and a deacon for 23 years, looked to University of St. Thomas to prepare himself for the next phase in fulfilling his vocation; serving as a hospital chaplain. He needed at least a master’s degree and to have taken clinical pastoral education courses through the Memorial Hermann Healthcare System to accomplish this feat.
The Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies is a professional degree program in the School of Theology, located at St. Mary’s Seminary, designed to provide academic formation for pastoral ministry in the Church. The program provides a solid theological foundation as well as the pastoral skills necessary for ministry in a variety of settings.
“I was raised by the Basilians,” Vacek said. “I went to St. Thomas High School and took a freshman English class at UST before I went to Tulane University. University of St. Thomas is a great school, the theology is top-notch and the faculty here is second-to-none. There are a lot of reasons to come here.”
When he began at UST, Vacek felt some trepidation, thinking he would be an anachronism in his young classmate’s lives and would not be accepted. He felt like an alien exploring the world of graduate school for the first time. These hesitations proved to be unfounded.
“Everybody was so nice,” Vacek said. “There was a lot of camaraderie and fellowship and I loved it. I got to know them, and I know these folks are going to do great things.”
Vacek began his college career at Tulane University in New Orleans, La., 48 years ago. He recalls it as a time when hippies and flower children still roamed the earth and the mantra “Get a career and do something with your life” defined the era.
Throughout his time at UST, Vacek found that our attitudes on motivation have shifted. He said his generation’s attitude was a motivation for material success and achievement. He said a good way to keep score was with money.
“Basically, people were going to school so they could go out and make money,” Vacek said. “You get sucked into the secular materialist mindset. Some people were able to deal with it and others were not.”
In today’s generation, he sees another facet of motivation - making the world a better place for everybody. He sees students fighting a stagnant culture and going against the grain, but knowing their path will not be easy.
“I wish I had been that engaged when I was first in college,” Vacek said. “From what I have seen from my perspective, our community stands a chance to benefit greatly from all the future endeavors of these folks.”
Vacek looks forward to making his mark on the world with the current generation. With the wisdom that comes with age and Vacek’s appreciation for his peers, his new mantra will be “Carpe Diem.”
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