by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. Profiles in Catholicism
Dr. Knight: Could you tell us about your background and family?
Meghan: I grew up in a small town of about 5,000 inhabitants in southern Illinois. It was a very close-knit, Christian, mining and farming community. I am the eldest of four, raised by divorced – and remarried – Southern Baptist/protestant parents. My mother was very devout in her faith and brought us kids up in the Southern Baptist church where I was baptized at nine years old. When I was 15, I found that particular parish was not the right match for me, so I began to talk to local Catholics about their faith, and that led me to being confirmed Catholic the following year. Following my conversion, sure, there were misunderstandings between myself and some protestant family members, but as time has gone on, we have had more open conversations about our perspectives and beliefs. I’ve found that having conversations with relatives about religion has actually strengthened our understanding of one another. I must give due credit, though, to my two very wise spiritual directors – one, a Jesuit from my years at Loyola University Chicago and the other here in Rome, a Dominican – as well for their accompaniment over the years on my spiritual, personal, and academic journey.
Dr. Knight: You have been a member of the RCIA. What about that experience stands out for you as meaningful?
Meghan: The thing that truly struck me was the absolute acceptance and humility the priest exemplified when I asked questions that might seem silly to some who were raised in the Catholic Church and attended catechism classes. He was never shocked by my ignorance – or at least did not appear to be. While in the years prior I may have memorized Bible verses and all the books in order, I had no concept of the catholic sacraments, rites, prayers, traditions, etc. The fact that the priest and the sister, who was helping lead the classes, were so patient with me and gave me such clear answers and steady guidance – I think that’s exactly what I needed at that age when I was simply trying to figure out what it was that I believed in.
Dr. Knight: Does being a woman influence your work at the Gregorian’s Centre for Child Protection?
Meghan: I think women have an innate sensitivity to the vulnerability and suffering of others, as well as an intuition about delicate matters, such as abuse, assault, and any other threatening behavior. Being a woman in an office that deals with topics like sexual abuse prevention, intervention, and the protection of the inherent dignity of all human beings – especially children – that intuition definitely comes into play.
Dr. Knight: Do societal changes mold what your faith means to you?
Meghan: It is impossible to not be affected by the society or times in which one lives, so I’d say yes, naturally, it has some influence. However, I believe that my faith primarily informs how I approach societal changes, trends, beliefs, politics, or movements, not the other way around. In addition, having been raised in an era in which technology really boomed, I find that it has actually served as a resource to deepen my understanding of my own faith, as databases, texts, journals, lectures, videos, etc. available online continue to multiply.
Dr. Knight: In what ways does your faith influence your work in protecting the inherent human dignity of every living being?
Meghan: Simply put, my sincere hope is that my faith guides me to seek justice where there is injustice and do to so humbly and steadily. Faith is not something that one can separate from one’s very being, actions, or values. It is imperative that we recognize the inherent dignity of every person we encounter. I try my best to adhere to Christian virtues such as patience, kindness, and compassion in all that I do – from greeting my colleagues or classmates to corresponding, at times, with those who have suffered some sort of abuse.
Dr. Knight: Do you think that the focus of our work as the community of God on Earth should include catechesis for adults in our society?
Meghan: Certainly. A great deal of my knowledge about Catholicism and the Bible itself comes from courses I took at university – and RCIA prior to that. Now, as an adult, it requires curiosity on my part to read, study, and learn on my own. Not all have that desire. But if the resources, courses, and guides were there for adults, I’m sure it would be an easier “yes” to educating oneself on one’s faith.
Dr. Knight: What are one or two of the most difficult aspects of your work? What are some of the most pleasant responsibilities or aspects?
Meghan: The most difficult aspect of my work, I’d have to say, is the constant confrontation with the reality that the church is full of hurting people who have been abused, often, at the hands of their trusted mentors. Reading these news headlines, listening to their stories – sometimes I have moments when I am entirely dubious of religious institutional constructs entirely, including the very institution of which I am part: the Catholic Church. But, the truth is that each and every one of us is vulnerable in any situation in which there is an imbalanced power dynamic, and that could be the case in any given context: corporations, volunteer organizations, school, church, a social club, etc. In today’s world, it is impossible to cut out institutional hierarchies entirely; therefore, there is that ever-present risk of various sorts of abuse.
Two pleasant aspects of my work must be: the fact that I work in an office full of brilliant women and the ability to constantly learn something new. The women I work with bring their own backgrounds, languages, perspectives, and strengths to the team, which gives me new insights on the spiritual, personal, intellectual, relational, and professional levels. To touch on the second point I mentioned, my work requires a great deal of reading, writing, translating, and editing, which means that I am always discovering!
Dr. Knight: What mantra or mantras do you have about your work that you would like people to remember?
Meghan: There are two that I’ve lived by: “do it right the first time” and “audentes fortuna iuvat.” In regard to the first, I prioritize optimizing my time, as I am currently a master’s student, a translator, writer, and work in communications for the Centre for Child Protection, which will become the Institute of Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care at the end of summer. In doing something to the best of my ability the first time I do it, it saves time in the long run. “Audentes fortuna iuvat” is a Latin proverb meaning “fortune favors the bold.” I wholeheartedly believe this to be true and do my best to live by this mantra.
Dr. Knight:As a woman in the field of safeguarding, child protection, and human dignity, do you have any other thoughts or advice you’d like to offer other women?
Meghan: Two things are essential: trust your intuition and use your voice. Far too often, women are made to feel that our intuition is paranoia or silly – it’s not! And our warnings or suggestions sometimes fall on deaf ears – that doesn’t mean you give up quietly. I believe that women truly play a key role in fighting abuse and standing up for one another – especially those who need support in sharing their stories – and I believe we have a responsibility to making the change we wish to see happen actually come to fruition.
Dr. Knight: Thank you for helping us deal with the issue of safeguarding minors and all vulnerable people as we strive to heal our fractured world.