Theology of Presence

A conversation with Sister Dolores Montini, CSJ, Chaplain for Athletics

How do you approach the role of chaplain? Why is it important to have this kind of mentoring?

For me, the first thing is getting to know the students. As a student-athlete, life can sometimes be challenging. They have the stress of practice, classes and keeping their life in balance. I would hope they know that I am here to listen, care and direct their concerns until they can work it through. They have to learn how to deal with a lot of pressure.

Is helping them manage that pressure also part of what you do?

Yes, it can be, if they come to me. But sometimes I go to practice, or watch them play, and I can sense that they are not at their best. This gives me the opportunity to engage them in conversation or just ask them, "How are you doing?"

It's like you're building up the Body of Christ. you're building up the students that need some encouragement. And when you build them up, the whole community is better because they're at their best selves.

Sometimes, in sports especially, you get down on yourself when you're in a slump. But that's part of life. Life is learning, and we're part of a learning community. As a learning community you learn how to deal with good things and not so good things. In sports, you learn how to deal with wins as well as losses.

How do our athletes impress you, and what have you learned from them?

They are remarkable human beings. I like the way that they live the mission. I love the way that they live with integrity. They know who they are. They make Saint Mary's proud. They're just really good kids. And they're fun!

Our students spend a lot of time training their bodies and minds. How do you help them train their spirits?

I really believe in what I call the theology of presence. Your presence makes the biggest difference in people's lives. When they see that you are present, they know that you care.

The Saint Mary's community includes students from a variety of religious backgrounds. How do you work with students who are non-Catholic or non-Christian?

The same way I think you'd work with anybody. You listen to them. You respect their views. You dialogue around their values and their faith traditions.

We are all Lasallian. I focus on being Lasallian, and what makes us live from our core principles. As athletes, we make the Word come alive through our actions. How we treat people. How we care for each other. And how we serve the global community.

What about your job brings you the most joy?

Being with the students and helping them and supporting them in being their best selves.

I love Saint Mary's. I think it's a really special place. it's a very inclusive and supportive community. You keep yourself open to all new experiences, and Saint Mary's has a lot to keep yourself open to. I think that's what education is. You open yourself up to new experiences, and those experiences will change the world and change you.