Synthesizing the Spiritual with the Secular

For Sr. Raghida Antoun ’20, MBA ’22, religious life signifies a commitment to prayer, ministering to the people, and following in the steps of Jesus. But it also includes a deep appreciation for practices less often associated with evangelization, such as public relations, fundraising, and organizational leadership.

“The business world gives spiritual organizations many opportunities to enhance and refine their mission,” said Sr. Raghida, who has devoted her life to the Order of Lebanese Maronite Sisters since 1998.

For Sr. Raghida, Elms College represents a “bastion of learning and achievement.”

Hailing from Tannourine—a mountain village in North Lebanon—Sr. Raghida came to Elms College in 2019 to pursue her degree in business management. The move to higher education was a practical one, as it offered her the chance to build on her experience as a nun in a more secular manner. 

Her trajectory from Lebanon to Chicopee was somewhat serendipitous. In 2017, she met a group of visitors to her convent, Saint Joseph Convent in Jrabta, Lebanon which is considered a major religious pilgrimage center. The travelers extolled Elms, telling Sr. Raghida about the pious mission of a small Catholic liberal arts college in Western Massachusetts. The group kept in touch over the next two years, and became close friends. Sr. Raghida was eventually introduced to Elms College President Harry Dumay, Ph.D., MBA, as well as Sister Miriam Najimy, the Provincial of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary at the Marian Center in Holyoke.

“For me, faith is not only a theological concept, but a way of living. It is the radar that guides me through the fog and turbulence of this life.”

Sr. Raghida Antoun ’20, MBA ’22

The overwhelming sense of hospitality she felt persuaded her that Elms was the place for her.

“Even though the Elms is a small college, it is rich in friendliness, mission, opportunities, assistance, and service,” said Sr. Raghida, who noted that her friends not only helped her organize all the details of her move, but provided financial support as well. 

“My first impression of the Elms was that it was more than a college,” she said. “Not only is it a big family, but a bastion of learning and achievement.”

Sr. Raghida enjoying time at the reflecting pond on campus.

With the help of her advisor, Janice Fedor, Ed.D., Sr. Raghida tapped into that drive for self-improvement she felt across campus. Immediately after completing her bachelor’s degree in May 2020, she enrolled in the college’s MBA program, challenging herself to continue fostering her executive leadership skills. She sees her time at Elms as a touchstone for international humanitarianism.

“My intention is to combine my education and experience in the United States to better serve my Order through my convent,” she said, noting that she plans to “create a global network of benefactors and supporters.”

And, while she is well-versed in providing spiritual guidance to those seeking solace, she also notes the complex maneuvering that goes into managing an international religious order.

“My life is a combination of the spiritual and the practical,” she said. “As a nun, I depend on divine providence to guide my steps. But in addition to this spiritual side, our Order also runs nursing homes and other organizations. From a religious perspective, business is also a mission.”

As she continues her studies at Elms, Sr. Raghida appreciates the network of support she discovered with staff and faculty. The tutoring center, led by Regina Tillona, M.Ed., was one resource in particular that paid dividends.

“Regina and Dr. Fedor, my advisor, played a major role in providing assistance that helped me succeed,” said Sr. Raghida. “They were supportive, accommodating, and helped me adjust to a new culture and language.”

Sr. Raghida also credits the friendships she has made, both on campus and in the surrounding community, with helping her feel “welcomed and cherished” as she studies abroad. 

This story was published in the Fall 2020 issue of Elms Magazine.