Emily Ruppel, Associate Director of Communications for the American Scientific Affiliation, tells about her unusual route into the science-faith arena, which began with a nun.
A few years ago while studying in the science writing master’s program at MIT
, I heard about something rather brilliant from a friend at Harvard University. Brilliant things happen at Harvard all the time, of course, but this was ‘brilliant’ in a different way—unexpected, illuminating, and challenging, for the people it happened to. It opened up a course of conversation previously unavailable to its participants. It was controversial, too, in a quiet way.
What happened is this: a graduate student studying astronomy sent an email to her department announcing her imminent departure from the program. She had no qualms with administration nor academic difficulties to my knowledge. It’s just that, in her life, at that time, it had become impossible to ignore the calling to become a nun, rather than an astronomer. To study service and the word rather than cosmic forces and the vast heavens. Her love of Jesus, she wrote in her letter, was very important to her, and this path she was about to embark on, it seemed, would be the only truly fulfilling work she could spend her life doing.
I don’t know much else about the letter or its writer—whether the decision was sudden and easy or difficult and drawn-out, or maybe a mixture of all these things. I do know that surprise and chagrin rumbled throughout the astronomy department, where folks questioned what seemed an illogical and perhaps ill-fated decision.