For Heidi Tousignant, the faith-formation director from Minnesota, having studied peace in college relates directly to some of her most important-and unpaid-work. As a parent "it absolutely enhances my vision of how to raise kids," she says. It's influenced her family's conversations, their values, their faith life, the decisions they make as a family, and what action they take in their community.
"We talk about our actions and what good they do, or what harm they do. We talk about what people need and what we can do about it. It's helped me to educate my kids in an important way."
In her work as director of faith formation at her parish, Guardian Angels, she's able to draw on her peace studies connection, too, but in a way that's unique to her own story. When she works with Confirmation students, she talks with them about the importance of discerning the Holy Spirit in their lives. She shares her story about taking a peace and justice class in college, and the sadness, anger, and guilt she felt about the issues she encountered in the class, and how she felt inadequate to deal with them.
A few months later, while working in Montana for the summer, Tousignant had what she calls a "mountaintop experience," when she was able to discern the Holy Spirit supporting her in her passion for peace and justice and in her determination to major in the discipline.
"I took time for reflection, time to let God in," she says. Since then, more than 200 people have graduated from the justice and peace studies program at St. Thomas.
Tousignant's story, though, is not about her, as she emphasizes to her students. "The point is, you make one decision, and you think it's your own personal decision, but then you realize the miracle God was able to do with your help."
This article appeared in the March 2010 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 75, No. 3, pages 12-17).