Hi all. Remember me? It’s been a while.
I’m Colleen Curran, Class of 2011. Well, now it’s Dr. Colleen Curran, but we’ll get to that in a moment. In September 2007, I was appointed the First-Year Blogger, which was supposed to be a year-long position. I ended up holding the position for five years, in which I also documented my study abroad experience at the University of Oxford in 2009–2010 and my first year of post-graduate experience from 2011–2012. ¬
It’s been ten years since I graduated from Holy Cross. So many things have happened, so let’s catch up! I am now Dr. Colleen Curran. I completed my MPhil in Medieval English at the University of Oxford in June 2012, and then my PhD in Palaeography and Manuscript Studies at Kings College London in January 2017. Since April 2017, I’ve been a Postdoctoral Researcher on the Consolidated Library of Anglo-Saxon Poetry project as well as a Research Fellow at Corpus Christi College at the University of Oxford. I’ve been focusing my research on the Anglo-Latin poetic tradition in early mediaeval England, particularly in the manuscripts in which these poems survive.
My field is a bit niche. Even my fellow medievalists would tell you that there aren’t too many palaeographers running around. When people ask how I became interested in this field, I say ‘Holy Cross’ and then explain my undergraduate experience. I realise now that Holy Cross was one of the few places that could nurture my love of Latin, history, literature, philosophy, and theology all under one roof. It was through my study abroad experience that I was able to undertake palaeography classes when I was an undergraduate, which is very uncommon. Holy Cross made all the difference: the professors I met, the friends I made, the classes I took. I’ve been able to see the world, to carve out a very different path for myself, to start my life in a new country. Holy Cross equipped me with all of the necessary skills to undertake all of this: my Latin classes and my study abroad experience have been particularly useful. If you would’ve told 22-year-old me that I would be holding ninth-century books on a daily basis and working in Montecassino, St. Petersburg, and the Vatican, I’m not sure I would’ve believed you. But, here I am, and welcome to my job.
My academic connections to Holy Cross didn’t necessarily end after graduation. I actually see Prof. Dan DiCenso quite regularly at conferences, and I’ve written a piece for one of his upcoming publications. I talk with Prof. Ellen Perry quite regularly, and I cite her class (and the research paper on the Libri Carolini) as a particular influence on my academic career. I actually made a ‘guest appearance’ in her last ‘Ideological Destruction of Art’ class this year. I’ve seen Prof. Jonathan Mulrooney in London a few times when he’s over for a regular Keats conference. One very happy coincidence was the day I submitted my PhD thesis, and Prof. Jim Kee and his wife, Joanne, just happened to be in London, so I was able to celebrate with them. I even gave a talk about my current research at Holy Cross in March 2019! That was my first time back on campus since September 2011, so I was able to (finally) stop by Fr. Brooks’ grave and say a quick prayer of thanks for him.
At the rate of making this sound like my life has been perfect, there have been difficulties, challenges, and changes along the way. There have been some significant personal losses, including Professor Rick Murphy and Fr. John Brooks. There have been some tough times, including a few weeks during the PhD where I had £10 to my name. There’s precarity in academia, especially for early career academics. There are times that navigating the U.K. Immigration system can feel like a second job. And yet, throughout all of those tough times, my Holy Cross friends supported, loved, and encouraged me.
And my story is not unique. Over the past ten years, I’ve been able to see my friends grow up, follow their dreams, and thrive. My friends are now accomplished lawyers, government advisors, fellow academics, teachers, and priests. Some of them have been Fulbright fellows, too. Some friends married fellow Crusaders, and I can now assure you that there is nothing better than a Crusader wedding. Some friends have started beautiful families of their own. It’s a joy and utter delight to see how all of us have grown up and yet remain true to the people we were on The Hill. Despite how far away I live, I always feel immediately connected with my Crusader friends.
Shortly after my graduation, I remember myself and a few others wanting to go back to Holy Cross to see everyone, to relive those late nights in Dinand with far too much coffee from Cool Beans, to wake-up to Amarylis’ omelettes and fresh waffles. Very recently, my friend, Margaret, helped organise an adaptation of the Examen for the Class of 2011 with Marty Kelly in which we reflected upon our time at Holy Cross. Throughout that reflection, more than a few of us referred to Holy Cross as home. But as my graduation date goes farther and farther away from me, I realise that Holy Cross and my experience isn’t just about the physical place — it’s about the people that I met there, how they helped me form myself during those four short years, and how we’re continuously still helping each other grow. For me, it’s about the classmates who became my life-long friends, my professors who helped me become the academic that I am today, and, most of all, the Jesuits who helped me discover an unknown beauty and depth of my faith. So, to Holy Cross: thank you for the most formative four years of my life. To any future Crusaders reading this, enjoy it and take advantage of all the opportunities Holy Cross will offer to you.
I realise that I’ve said good-bye to this blog a few times, but I really think that this is it: good-bye, all, and, to quote Fr. Brooks, ‘Keep reading’.