Miriam Farris

My journey to chaplaincy is deeply rooted in my call to teaching. I began to answer that call about seven years ago with the help of spiritual directors and friends in faith. I initially taught in public schools, while also volunteering for Sunday youth formation in my parish. Planning and teaching formation was noticeably more vibrant than my “day job,” but I wasn’t sure if chaplaincy was realistic for a lay person. Within a year of further discernment, however, I began my current position as a lay chaplain and religion teacher in the fall of 2022.

I continue to hear God’s call through the many ways that God is using my past experiences and passions in my current work. As a previous English teacher, I facilitated students’ understanding and appreciation of stories, and this is how I approach Biblical studies. As a teenager, I was intellectually curious about religions other than my own, and now I have the privilege of teaching World Religions and cultivating that curiosity in my students. Although music is indirectly related to my chaplaincy, I do believe my time as a church choir member equipped me with confidence in leading worship. Singing with my students in both the classroom and chapel fosters joy and a greater sense of belonging.

Chaplaincy also causes me to reflect upon and give thanks for former teachers, as well as priests, lay ministers and family members, whose good modeling has influenced me as an educator and leader. In that reflection and gratitude, I am challenged to be that good model, too. If I allow it, my preoccupation with tasks and curricular goals can get in the way of what I know to be my central ministry: to love children; to communicate God’s love; and to learn from my students, who have so much to teach me about God.

Miriam Farris is Lower School Religion Teacher & Lay Chaplain at St. Catherine’s School (Richmond, VA).