"No!" I said emphatically. "I can't put that expense on my family, and I don't have the time anyway."

Those were my initial words when Rev. Bob Longobucco asked me if I was interested in getting a master's degree at St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry in Albany - but his suggestion planted a seed.

I started asking my friends, "Can you believe Father Bob asked me to go back to school?" I figured they would laugh and agree with me. Instead, they encouraged me.

I started thinking and praying about it and began falling in love with the idea. Sister Kitty Hanley, CSJ, director of the school, made it seem doable.

The rest is history. I'll start my fifth class in the fall, and I love it. I somehow find the time, and scholarships have made it financially possible. I wonder if there are others out there who just need a little encouragement?

Here are my "top 10 reasons" to go to St. Bernard's:

1.  It will get your priest off your back.

2.  You'll amaze your friends when you tell them you're getting your master's in theology.

3.  You'll learn fancy words like "hermeneutics" and "transubstantiation."

4.  You'll meet incredible people who are as wonderfully crazy as you are.

5.  Why sit around watching "American Idol" when you could be reading Karl Rahner?

6.  You will start noticing the concept of the Trinity in everything. Even your coffee is like the Trinity: coffee, cream and sugar.

7.  Some of the words in Mass will make more sense. "Consubstantial" is actually pretty cool.

8.  Staying up late to write papers and hanging out in college libraries make you feel young.

9.  You will make big bucks...

OK, maybe not. But you will be rich in knowledge.

10.  "Theology" means "faith seeking understanding." It will help you know God a little better. What could be better than that?

(Ms. Rooney is pastoral associate for adult faith enrichment at Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha parish in Schenectady. Learn more about St. Bernard's at www.stbernards.edu or call 453-6760.)