Senior Meagan Montanari is no stranger to hardship. Neither is she a stranger to grace. Before attending Christendom, Montanari had a massive spiritual conversion, leaving behind a life harrowed by addiction for a life animated by Christ’s love. After years of drug use, homelessness, and even jail time, Christ intervened in Montanari’s life and brought her home to the Catholic church. Through the support of many mentors, the prayers of family members, and God’s abundant grace, Montanari is now resolved to learn everything there is to learn about theology so she can teach the faith to others. But recently, Montanari was dealt a cross that threatened these plans – a malignant melanoma diagnosis.
Heading into her senior year at Christendom, Montanari was more focused on her theological studies than ever. While working on her bachelor’s over the past three years, she has also simultaneously completed course work with the Christendom Graduate School to earn her master’s in theology. This May she will graduate with her B.A. in theology, and after comprehensive exams this summer, she will also earn her M.A. in August. Montanari hopes to earn a Ph.D. and one day teach theology at the collegiate level.
But before starting her senior year, Montanari discovered a mole on her forearm. Knowing that skin cancer runs in her family, Montanari visited the dermatologist. Soon it was revealed that the mole was indeed cancerous, and it was possible that the cancer had spread to other regions.
Just one week before classes began this semester, Montanari had surgery to remove the mole and a significant amount of surrounding tissue. A lymph node biopsy revealed that the cancer had not spread beyond her arm, and thus the cancer was diagnosed as stage one, an answer to prayers. Yet, Montanari will need to monitor with regular skin checks, and there is a possibility the cancer could return through satellite melanoma cells – a reality that has been hard for Montanari to process.
“It’s difficult with cancer. My whole perception of my life is different now. I know that one day it could come back and it could kill me,” shared Montanari. “It was hard realizing this, especially when I thought I had so much more work to do for God. I had this conversion, I had gone to school, and I believed God wanted me to do all these things, but then I thought that maybe my work was done. That was really sad, but I just had to accept it. It’s easy to conflate your desires and imaginations with what you think God’s will is, but ultimately, He’s in charge. His plans can be different than what you think.”
Throughout this trial, Montanari has found solace in the support of the Christendom community. When head chaplain Fr. Pollard asked the entire student body, faculty, and staff to pray for Montanari’s recovery, she received an outpouring of support.
Students and faculty members sent notes and emails to Montanari assuring her of their prayers. President Dr. O’Donnell sent Montanari a handwritten get-well card. Lily Keats, the wife of literature professor Dr. Patrick Keats who passed away last year after a battle with cancer, helped Montanari through her operation. Dr. Brendan McGuire, who is currently battling a rare bone cancer, told Montanari that he would offer up his sufferings for her healing. Montanari even received an email from an alumna she had never met who encouraged her in her recovery. While this diagnosis has been a heavy cross to bear, Montanari has felt immensely supported by her college community.
Montanari has remained as resolved as ever to continue her theological studies, even in the midst of her illness.
“I live for this. I live to go to school. I absolutely love it,” Montanari shared. “However much more time God gives me, I am going to spend it doing theology.”
Currently, Montanari is writing her senior thesis, studying for the GRE, and will soon be applying to graduate programs. After completing classes online last semester, Montanari is especially thankful to be back in the classroom. According to Montanari, “there is no place like Christendom,” and she is very thankful for her health and to be able to continue with her studies.
In the wake of her diagnosis, Montanari has found Christendom to be not just an excellent place to study the Catholic faith, but a caring community as well. Montanari’s life story beautifully demonstrates the power of grace, prayer, and faith-filled supporters. No matter what God has in store for Montanari, she is sure to handle life’s trials with grace, trust, and a supportive community at her side.