Author offers advice for new graduates, others on building ‘faithful careers’

To help him integrate his faith into his work as professor and associate director of the School of Communication at Illinois State University, Dr. Peter Smudde has a crucifix and religious emblems in his workspace. He said they are also good discussion starters with the students. (Provided photo)

NORMAL — As students graduate from college, degrees in hand and hopes for a bright future in their heart, it is essential to take more than knowledge, skills and experience into the search for a job, said Dr. Peter Smudde, professor and associate director of the School of Communication at Illinois State University.

“The time and the effort that job searches can take before they are successful can vary greatly because of so many factors, most especially the field in which you search and the economic forces on industry and society,” he told The Catholic Post. “A faithful approach to the search is truly essential.”

He urged them to remember: “You are not alone in your job search. God is with you.”

Smudde practices what he preaches.

Readers can find his well-researched thoughts in “Faithful Careers: Integrating the Catholic Faith and Work.” The book was published last summer by Routledge and is available in hardcover, paperback and e-editions.

“Faithful Careers” begins with a “Prayer for Work” and ends with a “Prayer for Working Well for God in His Vineyard.” In between are six chapters exploring what work is and why it’s important, as well as how to build a faithful career, where to get help, and next steps.

To put things in context, Smudde cites two Bible verses — what he calls scriptural “sparks” — at the beginning of each chapter. At the end, readers will find questions for meditation and a few suggested activities.

At the end of the third chapter, for example, he invites people to consider if they see their work as their vocation and how. One of the suggested activities is to “reflect on yourself as a Catholic worker, identify your strengths and weaknesses, then consider opportunities to make your strengths stronger and to minimize or eliminate your weaknesses.”

Along the way Smudde references the Bible, Catechism of the Catholic Church, papal documents, Vatican documents, saints and other holy men and women, such as Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

“We are all life-long learners, and that characteristic is especially important as Catholics,” he writes in “Faithful Careers.”

“With a faith that is nearly 2,000 years old and has the depth and breadth of profound truths, teachings and traditions, we should expect that the Catholic faith and the Catholic Church have so much to offer us to truly help us live lives of holiness and have faithful careers,” he continues. “Finding the sources that can best help us when we need it — to guide us in our understanding and application of the Catholic faith in our lives and careers — is very doable and can be very fruitful.”

LOVES BEING CATHOLIC

Raised in a faith-filled family in Elk Grove Village, Smudde has been on a quest to integrate his Catholic faith and work for much of his life.

He holds an associate degree from Harper College in Palatine, and a bachelor’s degree in English and philosophy and a master’s degree in writing, both from Illinois State University. His doctorate in communication and rhetorical theory was awarded by Wayne State University.

During a career that spans 35 years, Smudde has written technical manuals for General Motors and worked in public relations and speech writing. His goal was to be a university professor, however, something he accomplished in 2002.

“It’s been really, really nice to be back here at my alma mater,” he said.

Smudde isn’t afraid to let his students know he’s Catholic — and loves being Catholic — and would be glad to talk to them.

“I kind of felt that, if it were at all possible, it would be nice to help students maintain their Catholicity to the extent that I could do that,” he told The Post.

Smudde said that being Catholic, he knew that faith permeated all areas of his life. He didn’t think about it very deeply until he joined the Knights of Columbus.

“In discerning to become a Knight I learned what it meant to be a Knight and it meant to be largely a defender of the faith,” Smudde said. “I thought, ‘If I’m going to do that, I need to learn.’”

“PRAYING CONSTANTLY”

In the years since then, his reading and study led him to Benedictine spirituality, which is based on the motto “Ora et Labora” — prayer and work. Smudde was professed as an Oblate of St. Bede Abbey in Peru on Oct. 11, 2015, and wears a ring that features a medal of St. Benedict.

“I wanted to have some kind of outward sign of my choice to live under the Rule of St. Benedict to the best of my ability as an Oblate,” Smudde explained. “It’s also a reminder to me — primarily a reminder to me — to do that.”

He and his wife of 31 years, Patty, have also consecrated themselves to the Blessed Mother. They prepared with a study of “33 Days to Morning Glory” by Father Michael E. Gaitley, MIC, at their parish, Epiphany in Normal.

Now a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus, Smudde serves as sacristan and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, helps with RCIA, and has been a lector. Currently he is one of 15 men in the inquiry phase to be a permanent deacon for the Diocese of Peoria and said it has been wonderful for his marriage to Patty and their spirituality.

Their family also includes sons Jeffrey, 25, and Matthew, 28.

In “Faithful Careers,” Smudde talks about having a recipe for living a faith-filled life in your career. He said he does that through mindfulness, although not in the popular, secular way.

“I mean mindfulness in the Catholic way, which is keeping what Bishop Robert Barron calls right priorities,” he said. “That way what I do is for God, no matter how big or small, and that whatever I do can be a prayer so that I am praying constantly.”

He is putting together a workshop that is based on the book. Those who would like to learn more can contact Smudde at faithful.careers@gmail.com.

“Faithful Careers: Integrating the Catholic Faith and Work” can be ordered from the publisher, routlege.com; from Amazon, amazon.com; or at your local Catholic bookstore.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As The Catholic Post was putting together this story, we asked Dr. Smudde for his thoughts about why taking a faith-filled approach to finding a job and building one’s career is important to bring college graduates the kind of satisfaction they’re seeking. His full response can be found here.

 

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