Q&A With Past Chapel President Michael Seeley '13
Meet Michael Seeley '13
Past Chapel President
Q. Where are you now? Please share your location and job title, and provide a description of what your position entails (chief responsibilities, etc.).
A. As a Lieutenant Junior Grade in the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps, I’m stationed with Region Legal Service Office Japan, onboard Fleet Activities Yokosuka in Yokosuka, Japan. It’s a couple hours south of Tokyo and is the largest U.S. Navy base overseas. As a lawyer and officer in the Navy, my responsibilities change often. Throughout my tour here, I’ll serve as both prosecutor and defense counsel for courts martial, provide legal assistance to sailors and their dependents in civil law matters, and even assist in providing ethics and law of war advice to commanders. Being in Japan has its own challenges, and I also deal with international law, as well as observe trials of sailors in the Japanese court system to ensure judicial fairness.
Q. Please share a bit about how Campus Ministry at Augustana influenced your life. Please also share how your faith was nurtured outside of Chapel — by professors in class, by peer advisors, by friends, through participation in clubs or intramurals, etc.
A. I met Carol LaCroix, “Mama C,” when I came for a campus visit and so, from freshman year, I was hooked. Campus Ministries was such a beautiful facet of my Augustana career, because as I grew in my own faith journey, my responsibilities and opportunities expanded there as well. I started as a Freshman Ambassador, learning the nitty-gritty logistical side of how the Chapel operated: finding volunteers, tidying up the Chapel spaces, and so on. I believe the work built in me a servant mindset, a knowledge that worship often has behind-the-scenes tasks that people largely forget about. By the time I became a Chapel President in Senior year, I hope that I lived out that new knowledge by seeking out, recognizing, and encouraging those parts of our society that are taken for granted or altogether forgotten.
Not just the Chapel but all of Augustana is glowing with the life of the Church. There was not a moment of my life on campus that was not touched in some way by faith. I had communion with creation as I observed and scientifically tracked the moon. We lay on the floor of our Stavig rooms, musing about theology late into the night. I heard sermons of music at recitals and concerts. Both in and outside of the Chapel, however, my faith became my own, not merely the (albeit beautiful) inheritance from my upbringing, and it anchored me for trials that lay ahead.
Q. Who was your most inspiring professor at Augie, and why?
A. It’s hard to choose, because I don’t want to offend by omission any of the dozens who shaped my life more profoundly than they know: the conversations over Dr. Rocki Wentzel’s Roman dinners, Dr. Patrick Hicks’ quiet and selfless office-hour tutelage on fiction-writing, Dr. Peg Preston’s passion, the list goes on and on.
But whenever I consider this question, there is an anecdote that I come back to, and I think it illustrates the kindness Augie, and in particular its Christian core value, represents: I was taking Dr. Murray Haar and Dr. Dave O’Hara’s “Genesis, Justice, Job” class, and we were reading through the book of Job. Throughout, Job railed against God for the destruction of his life, and his friends demanded that he repent of the wrongdoing that must have caused it. But at the end of the book, God was angry with Job’s friends because they had not spoken truth as Job had (Job 42:7). The friends didn’t have the answers to Job’s questions, but they couldn’t believe that a righteous man would be given such pain. Dave said, “Instead of sacrificing others on the altar of our theology, we have to sit and weep alongside them.” His answer has always stuck with me. The world is full of devastating hurt, and it’s our calling not to provide a logical answer to that pain but to be there to support and weep with the suffering.
Q. How as your faith helped you navigate through life's changes and challenges?
A. And it was professors and experiences like these that shaped how I’ve dealt with the challenging hurt in my own life. Midway through my time at Augie, my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It grew worse during law school, and she went to be with our Lord in December 2014. Having faith in a time like this is both a blessing and a curse. There was someone I could bring my sorrow to in prayer, and yet, why hadn’t he cured my mom, one of his most devout servants? To believe in the Almighty and see the beauty of His handcrafted world but also its evil and its suffering — how do you reconcile the two? I still fight with that question, and I still ache with grief.
But I also have the faith my parents planted and Augustana bloomed in me. And God has provided me the friends that Job needed, the ones who weep with me instead of telling me everything happens for a reason. I can see the beauty and the wonder in creation yet, and I praise God for shaping such a world.
Q. What’s given you the greatest personal satisfaction since graduating from Augie? And why?
A. For me, it’s been achieving my goal of serving in the Navy JAG Corps. Whether we stay in for a career or return home to the Midwest after five years, I am certain that what I’m doing is my God-given vocation. My joy in this job comes from who I serve. As I draft a will for a young sailor about to deploy for the first time, or ensure a defendant receives the full measure of their constitutional rights, I’m doing my part to relieve stressful burdens in peoples’ lives. I’m coming alongside my neighbors and helping them in their time of need — a value I learned at Augie. And besides, the Navy’s blue and gold reminds me of home!