When Hope Is “Like A Bull”
Two years ago, doctors gave Hope Bennett one year to live. The 49-year-old mother and former business finance manager left her studies at St. Thomas and went home with her new constant companion — a portable oxygen unit.
Now on the verge of graduation, and still accompanied by breathing support, the General Studies major recalls a good friend saying, “When you get something in your head, you’re like a bull.”
A Hopeful Beginning
That determination may have been prayed into her as a newborn during a naming ceremony led by her grandmother.
“They faithfully prayed over me and put all the hope of all their slave and Native American ancestors from the African and Indian nations into me,” Hope said. “My grandma always told me to be bold and go for it.”
Fast forward to 2014 when she worked for a large company, and life took a sudden and violent turn. Hope survived a horrific assault. Since then, she copes with major PTSD, anxiety and depression from the trauma.
But remember her name. The faith-filled Hope entered Lone Star College, the first step toward her dream of earning a degree. She excelled at whatever she touched.
She said, “My Phi Beta Kappa team did trailblazing research into Houston’s adolescent homeless population. People didn’t realize how high the numbers were at that time. It’s an epidemic.”
In 2016, she enrolled at the University of St. Thomas to complete a bachelor’s degree. Her world again turned upside down. Suddenly, and inexplicably, she fell ill with persistent pneumonia followed later by an onslaught of severe autoimmune disorders. She overcame multiple, lengthy hospitalizations and was diagnosed with idiopathic fibrosis of the lungs, lupus and Sjogren’s syndrome. That’s when she began to need added oxygen.
Hearing that she had only a year to live, Hope took a break from school to regroup.
But the next year, Hope returned — fragile, frequently short of breath and with bull-headed focus.
“I just think there’s going to be a miracle out there and I don’t want to be looking back two years from now and say, I could have already had my degree if I’d kept my faith,” Hope said. “God can do anything.”
In spite of her frailty, Hope is the President of the Criminal Justice Club and the founding President of the Criminal Justice Honor Society. She also received UST’s Outstanding Non-Traditional Student of the Year Award.
Hope said, “My desire is to inspire others. No matter what has happened in my life, it will not be in vain. I will not suffer, I will rise, I will shine, I will move forward in peace and with hope.”
Her theology professor, Sr. Theresa Marie Chau Nguyen, O.P., said that the purposeful, compassionate, and fearless student radiates with the embodiment of her name.
“She lives, and she cherishes, and she radiates. When I’m feeling a bit low and Hope comes to me, 'hope' truly comes to me.”
Cherishing each day and every encounter, Hope plans to seek a second degree in criminal justice. Bet on the bull.
The University of St. Thomas is Houston’s Catholic University. For more than 71` years, UST has graduated students into successful careers in medicine, education, business, public administration and more. As Houston grows, UST will continue to provide the strong leaders and skilled workers needed to meet those demands.