For most college students, summer break is spent catching up on some much needed rest or resume building through internships, jobs and classes. But for 23-year-old Amanda Hernandez Michalski, summers were spent living with the Congregation of St. Joseph of Carondelet to prepare for her life as a sister.
“My mom has always been like my main inspiration for my faith,” Amanda said. “She has always emphasized that God will always be there for you.”
With faith strongly rooted in her home life, she knew that during college she had to make her own choices. Choosing to live with the Sisters during her college years had a large impact on her faith and life ambitions.
Well before graduating from UP in 2020, Hernandez Michalski had her post-grad plans lined up.
“I planned on going to CSU Northridge, which is a university down in LA, living with the sisters, and once, you know, things were settled and I finished my candidacy, then I’d go onto a novitate and then go through the whole process of becoming a sister,” Hernandez Michalski said.
Instead, Hernandez Michalski’s plans were disrupted by the pandemic. She was forced to move back home and take online classes. But after a visit to UP in late 2020, Fr. Jim Gallagher brought up the idea of Hernandez Michalski coming back to UP for graduate school.
“This is where I know I'm going to get a quality education, and be able to live out the values that I hold,” Hernandez Michalski said.
Upon returning to UP, Hernandez Michalski was offered a position as a pastoral resident in Fields Hall. As a layperson and woman of color, she would bring a unique perspective to the position since most pastoral residents have historically been Holy Cross priests. She gladly accepted the offer.
Until now, pastoral residents in all UP dorms have been Holy Cross priests. But after facing difficulty finding a priest to fill the spot in Fields Hall, UP had to look at other options. As a previous student who served in Campus Ministry as a member of the Servant Leadership Team, Hernandez Michalski brings a level of relatability to students.
“With Hernandez Michalski, part of that strength that she's bringing is having had the experience of being a woman living in the halls here at UP, not too far out from being an undergraduate,” Gallagher said. “So maybe a little bit more in tune with some of the stressors or things that might be on the minds of students today.”
The role of a pastoral resident is to be a spiritual presence in the dorm. There are no rules limiting that position to men or those associated with a Congregation. For female dorms, like Fields Hall, having a woman in the role of pastoral resident is a big step towards diversity on campus and in the Cathoilc Church.
As well as being a woman, Hernandez Michalski is also passionate about her Latinx heritage. During her time at UP, she submitted an opinion piece to The Beacon after the controversial ”Wally Awards” in 2018. As a woman of color, Hernandez Michalski represents more than just female leadership at UP.
Despite having a student body that is 60% female, only 18% of the President's Leadership Cabinet are women. While women are still fighting for a role in the Catholic Church, other Christian denominations have made strides to diversify ministry leaders.
Brandy Daniels, an ordained minister with the Disciples of Christ, is an assistant professor of theology on campus and studies the intersection of feminist and queer theories in religious spaces.
“There's not a lot of women in religious leadership at this school,” Daniels said. “I think creating those spaces will help change conversations and open up spaces for addressing different issues that minorities face in different ways.”
Creating safe spaces for students - especially women and minorities- is important to Hernandez Michalski.
“The whole goal is to just make everybody feel included because the Catholic Church literally means the Universal Church,” Hernandez Michalski said. “And so, to have diverse representatives in this faith will eventually, ideally, invite more people to come and join.”
In her time as a pastoral resident, Hernandez Michalski hopes to serve the women of Fields Hall by creating a strong community centered in faith — with the The Sisters at St. Joseph of Carondelet serving as her inspiration.
Hernandez Michalski hosts a community prayer night every Thursday night at Fields Hall, followed by Nacho Night.
Chiara Profenna is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: Previous versions of this story incorrectly reported Amanda Hernandez Michalski was the first layperson as well as first woman to be a pastoral resident at UP. In fact, according to UP archives and Campus Ministry, that is not the case.