Never - or Possibly - Too Old to Learn

So I’m thinking of applying to a university for my Master’s degree. Part of me is excited about the opportunity. Part of me feels a little ridiculous. I have children who are old enough to think about getting a Master’s degree. I worry that my time for being a student has long passed. It will take three years to earn a Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministries, at the end of which time I will be 54. It’s an age that sounds pretty old to be walking to "Pomp and Circumstance". My ever-supportive husband has pointed out that I will be 54 whether I go back to school or not, so why not do it? I understand that, and I am grateful for his encouragement, but still. Is the whole idea misguided? Will I work or live long enough to justify the expense? Am I, instead of aging gracefully, clutching at straws? I hope to be able to put my degree to good use in the future as a prison chaplain. I have been volunteering with the Catholic chaplain at the nearby state prison for four years, and feel very much called to commit more deeply to this work. The prison has become like a second parish to me, the Catholic (and non-Catholic) inmates comprising a truly, and surprisingly, spiritual faith community. I believe this particular Master’s program will make me more professionally suitable to this ministry. I also believe that, although I may feel silly, I am in reality sending the message to my children that a person is never too old to learn, to expand, to challenge oneself, to take a chance; that it matters to follow a dream, however unlikely it may seem. I have worked out all the reasons to proceed. I just have to get over my own misgivings, my secret fear that maybe a person can be too old to do a lot of things. I’ll have to see what I’m made of, and risk being disappointed at what I see. Valerie Schultz
Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
9 years 3 months ago
Since you're already experienced in prison ministry, I suspect the degree will be a breeze. With your experience you could practically teach the course, no? As for justifying the expense -- do you have a heart problem? Surely modern medicine can keep you alive long enough to make use of your degree. Good luck.
9 years 3 months ago
Go for it, Valerie. Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another. G.K. Chesterton

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

A woman holds up a sign during a rally against assisted suicide in 2016 on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario. (CNS photo/Art Babych)
The American College of Physicians called for better promotion of palliative and hospice care, which opponents of physician-assisted suicide say are underutilized areas of medicine that could address concerns of patients facing difficult illnesses.
Michael J. O’LoughlinSeptember 21, 2017
(CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
"We have a priest who makes everyone feel welcome, says Mass with great reverence and gives meaningful homilies"
Our readersSeptember 21, 2017
Photo by Victor Lozano on Unsplash
Any willingness to cooperate across party lines is praiseworthy. Unfortunately, brinkmanship remains the preferred legislative strategy.
The EditorsSeptember 21, 2017
Pope Francis, seen here at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican on June 28, has announced two significant reforms in recent weeks by releasing statements motu proprio. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
When a pope issues a document “motu proprio,” it means he does so by his own motivation, and it can mean a significant change to church law.
Michael J. O’LoughlinSeptember 21, 2017