Kathy Langer is currently director of social concerns for Catholic Charities in St. Cloud, a position that she has held since 2009. With years in parish ministry, her role at Catholic Charities is refocusing her passion and talents from direct pastoral care to administrative leadership. "It calls me to facilitate the work and ministry of others. I would have not envisioned this twenty years ago but I recognize that God has always been full of surprises. It takes a while sometimes to recognize that where I am is where I most need to be a faithful disciple of Jesus."
Kathy, who is a 1999 graduate of the School of Theology·Seminary, describes the origins of her ministry as a conversion experience. "It was a time in my life when God broke into my life as a nurse and young mother, a faithful churchgoer with a routine prayer life that was pretty much making bargains with God." When her sister invited her to a charismatic retreat, she hesitatingly agreed but trusted the change that this new found faith had in her sister. During the retreat Kathy experienced in a deep way God's love and the call to a new and life-giving level of discipleship. What followed was the slow unfolding of Kathy's vocational call.
"I began to read the Bible during my children's naps, snatching fifteen minutes to think about what Jesus was saying to me. Then I got more involved in my parish, and during that time the principal at my children's Catholic school suggested I earn the certificate in ministry at the College of St. Benedict. Fast forwarding, I discovered a passion for high school youth and the terrific conversations you can have with them about God and real life. What began as a much loved volunteer activity led to sixteen years of fulltime youth ministry."
Sensing that her time as a youth ministry was coming to an end, Kathy heard about an opening at the Newman Center in St. Cloud and was hired as pastoral associate. In addition to campus ministry and ministry to the larger community as a pastoral associate, she was invited to preach once a month, an opportunity she found demanding and exhilarating at the same time. "I have felt at times throughout my ministry that I was in over my head. Certainly that was the case with preaching. But it is precisely at those times that I am aware of how faithful God's love and grace are."
As the Newman Center entered into the clustering process with two other city parishes, Kathy once again knew a transition was happening in her ministry. "The chance to work at Catholic Charities wasn't a call away from Newman but a call into a new way to serve. Now I help parishes as they seek to make Catholic social teaching and its principles of justice and charity integral in people's lives. Working on behalf of people who are poor and marginalized draws on everything that has formed me over the years."
This includes Kathy's study at Saint John's. "The MA in Theology program rooted me deeply in theology and scripture and helped me articulate my deepest convictions about what it means to follow Jesus. I also learned how to be courageous about speaking aloud my beliefs and claiming the abilities I have to lead. The school also challenged me to grow, not to settle into what was convenient or comfortable." As Kathy describes her life in ministry and her life as a disciple, she returns frequently to her bedrock belief that God walks with us in the muck and joy of being human as we follow Jesus. "The message of Jesus was and is one of radical love. It gets messy and it is what gives me hope every day."
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