Impacting the Sustainable, Green Future of Our World

I am Anne Mette Frey and I am currently working as an associate professor in chemical engineering at Aarhus University in Denmark. As a scientist, the leader of a research group, and an educator responsible for chemical engineering, at first glance I might not look like a typical ITI graduate building up the Kingdom of God. Yet I hope to contribute a little bit in my own way and hope also to show with my story that there are many ways to fulfill our call to build up the Kingdom.  


In 2013 I left an exciting carrier doing research in chemistry in The Netherlands to go to ITI to study. It was a difficult decision to leave my good friends, a nice parish, a town where I felt at home, and an exciting job while not knowing the impact it would have on my work and career opportunities nor where I would end up afterwards. At the same time, I was experiencing that colleagues, family, and most of the people in the secular surroundings I was in, could not understand my decision. It was definitely neither an obvious nor an easy choice, but it was the result of a desire to learn more and get to know God better. This desire had been inspired by my contact and formation with the Brothers of St John, which was also where I initially heard about ITI and met others who had been at ITI and spoke enthusiastically about the Studium Generale program.   


The possibilities and structure for learning at the ITI were of great importance to me. I was privileged to be given the possibility to take more courses and more advanced courses than a beginner normally would. With the study techniques and experience I already had from my science background and with my eagerness to learn and work hard, it was doable.  I am thankful for the flexibility and the trust that I could handle it, which came from both the administration and the faculty, and I am also grateful for some of the professors initially expressing concern, since it showed that they cared about me. I hope I proved that it was not only possible to take those classes, but also possible to do well, because I was willing to spend extra time reading up on background information I was lacking.  It was extremely motivating to learn so much about the topics I was most interested in.  


The different spiritualities and the richness of the various liturgies were also appealing to me. It was a blessing especially to have daily access to Divine Liturgy and Byzantine spirituality. The focus on sacraments, adoration and prayer provided the best possible framework for developing my spiritual life and regular prayer life.  Life and study at ITI also taught me a lot about healthy and unhealthy views of God and I learned to avoid a number of pitfalls in the spiritual life and to be cautious about discernment and whom to trust for advice.   


One of the most important and meaningful things for me at the ITI was the great encouragement to “study theology on one’s knees.” The prayerful approach was significant for adding a much deeper layer than traditional intellectual academic study is capable of. That is something I am still very conscious about in my efforts to continue to study our faith on my own. Theology on one’s knees is also a particularly useful rule of thumb in my involvement in parish e.g. as head of the parish council in the largest Catholic parish in Denmark. Often, I have to deal with people who are very different from myself, who have different opinions, “theology,” backgrounds, ideas, and desires for the parish. In order to work for common good and for what is right and true - and to avoid being tempted to build my own empire based on my own ideas - it helps to remember to search for the right way forward on my knees in prayer. I use the same approach when I am preparing catechesis and other such things for the parish or other settings; very seldom do I prepare such things just in front of the computer - it is normally at some point brought with me to my prayer. I think it makes a difference not only to me, but hopefully also to the quality of “product” that others receive from me.   


Even if returning to my current professional work may at first glimpse seem far from the Church and faith, I believe that the combination of my education in chemistry and from ITI gives me something very valuable that I hope I manage to use and direct into something good.  I have the possibility to impact the sustainable, green future of our world a little by my research and my contact with policymakers. This, I believe, is a way of partaking (on a small scale) in governing this world and taking responsibility for it so as to ensure developments in our world that lead to sustainable food, fuel, energy, etc. for everyone.