After growing up on Long Island, NY, Rev. Beatrix Weil attended the University of Notre Dame and Princeton Theological Seminary. She was ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and completed a one-year chaplain residency at Presbyterian College. This year, she moved to Memphis to serve as Rhodes’ new chaplain and will soon join the Presbytery of the Mid-South.
Tell us about yourself. What’s your background?
I’m from Long Island. My mom grew up Catholic and my dad grew up Jewish, so that was a really interesting interfaith household to grow up in. After Notre Dame, I went to Princeton Theological Seminary. I have a certificate in theology, women, and gender, which has been helpful for the work that I do as a college chaplain.
How do you think growing up in an interfaith household informs your work as a chaplain today?
It certainly was interesting! We had a mezuzah on the door frame and a crucifix on the front door. It taught me about the ways people of different faiths can get along and create something beautiful and wonderful together. It also taught me that none of the religions or denominations is better or holier or closer to God than any other. I have to think that God is happy to have all of God’s children to celebrate and love.
How do you see your role as chaplain? What are some of your priorities?
I think the first thing I need to do is help people understand what a chaplain is and how this fits into what makes Rhodes College unique. The people who work at Rhodes care so deeply and so much for the students. Nobody goes into higher education unless they really want to spend time with people in this age group and love them well. That’s a big priority for me: just loving these students well and getting to know them as individuals and hopefully meeting some of their religious and spiritual needs.
What are some of the reasons a student might come to you?
Students can come to me for anything—the good and the bad. I’m here for the beautiful, joyful parts of life and also the scary and upsetting parts. I think of the chaplain as someone who holds stories gently and with mercy. Students can come to me to talk and I will walk with them through whatever life is throwing at them, whether that means exploring faith or religious options or secular ways of thinking more deeply about the world. In particular, I do want to hear from students who want to grow in their faith but also anyone who is in distress. I’ve got an office full of coloring books and I am happy to share! I’m big on meditation and learning how to take things in stride and building resiliency.
Are there any misconceptions about chaplains you want to address?
I think a lot of people think that the chaplain is here just for Christians or just for people of faith and that is a big ol’ lie. Chaplains are here for all of the students. I really hope students know I am here for each and every one of them, including people who are very devout about their faith and people who are not-so-devout about their faith, or people who aren’t sure about what they believe or are sure that they do not believe. I am here to have good conversation with any and all people.
What are you most looking forward to about being on the Rhodes campus?
I love meeting people and I am so excited to meet more students. Please come visit me and if you see me, wave me down so I can get to know you!