REAL Commitment: Leadership Candler Helps Sidelined Athlete Find Seminary
You could say that Katie O'Dunne "stumbled" into her theological education at Candler.
A long-time track and field athlete, O'Dunne was recruited to Elon University to run, but in her first week at school sustained a foot injury that would bench her for the season.
It was a chance stop at a church service shortly after seeing her team's bus off to a meet that started O'Dunne down a road that would ultimately lead her to Candler.
Upon seeing O'Dunne's crutches and inquiring about her injury, a parishioner at the service told O'Dunne of a cross-country coaching position at a local high school that served underprivileged children. O'Dunne decided to seize the opportunity and began to work as assistant coach to the team.
"I saw God working in each of those children and felt that the hardships had been put in my life to send me down a new path: helping those in need. I understood this new purpose in front of me, as I wanted to seek to serve others and do God's work."
O'Dunne's discernment led her to consider Candler and take part in our Leadership Candler program. Leadership Candler, a three-day scholarship event on Emory's campus brings together distinguished Master of Divinity candidates to explore Candler's program of studies and meet faculty and students.
"I had long had my eye on another seminary, but one of my undergraduate professors—a Candler graduate—said, 'Listen, Katie, with your interest in social justice, Candler is where you want to go.'"
O'Dunne's experience at Leadership Candler proved her professor right. O'Dunne says the blend of academics and community engagement were what made the difference.
"When I asked Candler students what they were passionate about in ministry, they all said they wanted to make a change in the world. I was able to see—through the classes and the Contextual Education programs I visited—that they were learning how to do just that."
Today O'Dunne is a Student Ambassador and a competitive triathlete. She is exploring, through joint classes at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health, the ways prayer can be used as therapy for terminal illness and injury.
"Leadership Candler helped me see the possibilities that were in abundance here. With my degree from Candler, I can transform my passion for faith and health into a vocation."