Former Jasper Savio Paul Reflects on Faith in his Athletic Career

by Samantha Walla, Production Editor

Savio Paul, once a chemical engineering major and pole vaulting Jasper, returns to Manhattan College for a different pursuit. After graduating in 2015, Paul entered the seminary at St. Joseph’s Seminary and College.

As a fifth year seminarian, Paul is in his second to last year of formation on the track for graduates with a college degree.

Two years in philosophy, got a masters in Catholic philosophical studies now going for a theology degree. MDiv, or Master of Divinity, which is the official degree for someone doing ministry in the United States.

Paul’s studies have forced him from the “engineering bubble,” the transition felt like learning a different language.

“Philosophy is great because it’s the science of the sciences. It takes nothing for granted,” said Paul. “For example, in math, one plus one equals two. But why does one plus one equal two? Philosophy asks those deeper questions, like the reality of everything. So for me, it was a real rewiring of how to think and look at the world, in a sense.”

Despite the culture shock, chemical engineering prepared Paul for seminary in unlikely ways, such as becoming a clear thinker, dealing with difficult problems and working in teams.

“There’s a whole different kind of lingo, words that I didn’t actually think were words were words. A whole shift in thought,” said Paul. “It was really humbling in that way, too. It’s easy to get a big head after engineering, I thought I had it all figured it all out. But it’s like, no, I actually know nothing. That I know for sure.”

Chemical engineering, while differing in content, allowed Paul to gain familiarity with learning and living in a tight-knit community.

After philosophy, Paul began studying theology, the material he expected upon entering the seminary. In theology, Paul studied deeper into his faith, learning far beyond what he already thought he knew.

“It’s so vast, and there’s so much to learn. And that’s the beauty of God, you know, you’re never done on the journey, we’re constantly on that journey growing towards perfection.”

The family-like community of the chemical engineering department continued when Paul went to seminary, as relying on others is a chief component of studying theology.

“It’s amazing how God uses your gifts. It’s never a waste. That’s the beauty of that history. Once you open yourself up to God, he will use your talents.”

These talents extended beyond chemical engineering while at Manhattan College, as Paul also was a pole vaulter on the track and field team.

“Talking about the spiritual life and typical life… It’s easy to think of them as separate worlds, but I think sports really shaped me into the person I am today,” said Paul.

Paul began his sports career in high school, the self-described shy, unathletic type decided to give pole vaulting a try on a whim. For Paul, being able to do well and succeed in pole vaulting was the way that God communicated being made in his likeness and image. This endeavor allowed him to relate to God through worldly experience, which was a more powerful connection than simply reading about God’s love.

Paul found his intense discipline paid off in other areas of his life, including his academics and faith.

“There’s something beautiful about sports in general. The whole idea of constantly working at perfecting yourself, striving for excellence, which I find is so in sync with the faith,” said Paul. “We’re trying to grow in holiness, grow in perfection. For me, sports was another way of expressing that, to give until it hurts.”

Even beyond the individual sport of pole vaulting, being a part of a team allowed for Paul to grow and work toward something larger than himself. His coaches, as well as his teammates, gave him the opportunity to explore aspects of his life that extended beyond athletics. Late night practices preceded even later night conversations about life with coach Dan Mecca, who Paul felt acted as a second father.

Speaking on the relationships that Paul found at Manhattan College occasions advice to current students:

“Enjoy this community while you’re here,” said Paul. “Because it’s not like this everywhere.”