Well, I am finished.
For those of you keeping score at home, I can now sign my correspondence as “Aldean Hendrickson, JCL” (if the occasion warrants it, at least). After three and a half years as a full-time student, uprooting my young family and migrating back and forth between Minnesota and Canada eight times, we are on our way home to our home to stay and make it a home. And I will, in a few short days, begin again to build a career, this time in service to the Church as an expert in Canon Law.
Thank you for all your prayers along the way to this point, and please continue to pray for me, and for more clergy, religious, and laity who will answer the call to be ministers of justice in the Church.
I have now entered the final month of my course of study in Canon Law. By lunchtime on December 11th, I will be on the far side of an hour of examination covering the full range of the Church’s law, and (hopefully) with the satisfied relief of a job well done.
Am I nervous? More terrified, really. Yet I am also largely calm, almost disinterested in the remainder of this long process. I know I should be frantically and systematically reviewing copious notes, commentaries, and sundry documents, cramming my head with concepts and connections that I have been content to let wash over me for most of my time as a student here. Yet more than anything these days I just want to hold my children as they fall asleep at night, to watch a television program with my wife, to sit alone and stare into the future I cannot see.
So please, pray for me, that I can find the perseverance to study well and hard these next few weeks, that I can make my family and my diocese proud, and that I can prove myself adequately prepared to serve the Church as a minister of justice and an expert in the law.
One more week to go.
In a week’s time I will be halfway through my studies for the Licentiate in Canon Law. It is often hard to see how far I have come because my eyes are so fixed on how far I have yet to go before I hold that diploma in my hand, before I can hang that Latin document on my office wall and call myself an expert in the law of the Catholic Church. And even then, all my required course work being completed, I know full well that I will still be only a neophyte, with a lifetime of constant study and learning ahead of me, with always there being more legal and theological knowledge left to apprehend than I can ever hope to master.
But, for all that, I have come a long ways already. I have spent the past year immersed in a field of study that few have even heard of, a field that I for some reason feel called to labor in as a core part of my vocation as a follower of Christ. Tribunal ministry is, for some reason, where God has directed my path, and I am thrilled every day that I have finally found the courage and strength to turn my steps to follow that path in heed of that call.
And the work awaits me with impatience. My diocese has placed all their confidence in me, struggling on without a licensed Tribunal director for more than three years while they await me to be properly trained to fulfill that rôle. I find it very difficult to refer to this arrangement in a way that does not feel arrogant. But in truth I am deeply humbled by this set of circumstances, fearful lest I disappoint, yet more often hopeful that I can with grace rise to such an occasion, and offer a fitting service to the People of God as my life’s work.