ST. JOHN – When it comes to her faith, Katherine Carlson can’t help but share, and she has found the perfect place to do just that.
“I love so many things about St. John the Evangelist,” she said. “First of all, there are endless possibilities and opportunities to encounter God in so many different ways and in people. I love the community here. Since the first day I started, I felt a part of the family and welcomed by everyone. This is the quickest I have ever made friends. It already feels like home!”
Carlson began working July 1 as the pastoral associate for discipleship at St. John the Evangelist in St. John. Some of her primary jobs include helping with the Order of Christian Initiation for Adults, young adult ministry, Alpha program, small group formation and mission trips. As an advocate for discipleship, she walks up to people after Mass and asks them about their experience while sharing some of her own.
“One of the things I am very passionate about is learning how to be a disciple who makes disciples and having that intentional relationship with people, helping them to grow in the way that God is calling them to and to use their gifts and talents,” Carlson said.
She was not always one to share her faith, let alone fathom it. Carlson, who was born and raised in Lake Orion, Mich., a suburb of Detroit, appreciates her Midwest life and her family, but didn’t always appreciate her faith.
“My younger brother and I both went to a Catholic school our whole lives, from kindergarten through 12th grade, but I never knew why we were Catholic, or why I wanted to be Catholic. Sports took over my life and became the center of everything I did.
“As sports took over and became my passion, I was getting offers from many (NCAA) Division 1 schools to play college volleyball,” she continued. “I chose Valpo (Valparaiso University) because it was a smaller school but had a great D1 program. It was a family environment…everyone knew everyone, teachers knew their students…and even came to my games!
“Faith was not in my decision at all when choosing my scholarship and school. Luckily, God had a plan for that and me choosing Valpo.”
The 2019 VU graduate said Father Christopher Stanish and the family at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Student Center were instrumental in her spiritual growth. Then she became a Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) minister and went on a trip to Mexico City where she “truly encountered the poor and loved them for who they were.” She found God’s love through other people and last year became a FOCUS minister at Minnesota State University.
Carlson and Louis Cain, SJE’s pastoral associate for evangelization, met during co-ed volleyball almost three years ago and became friends. About six months ago, while she was a FOCUS missionary in Mankato, Minn., he shared information about “an amazing opportunity to work at SJE and share my gifts and talents here,” she said. “I am so glad God led me here.”
Cain, a former FOCUS missionary, agreed. After meeting her through a volleyball league in Crown Point about three years ago, he recognized her from a picture on the FOCUS connect website. “It is amazing that Katherine is working for us now. It’s such a God thing.”
Father Declan McNicholas, pastoral associate, who has known Carlson for about four years, is glad to have her at SJE. He said, “She is a great fit; she is a perfect fit for what we’re doing here. She is energetic and excited to be part of what we are doing here with evangelizing. She has truly connected with our staff and parish partners.”
Cain added that Carlson is upbeat and kind. “Katherine has a very charismatic and upbeat personality. I can’t wait to see how God continues to use her in drawing people closer to himself.”
Her responsibilities include running evangelization and faith formation opportunities and ministries. In addition to bringing back international and domestic mission trips for parish partners, she is embarking on a new program, RESCUE Project, with Father Sammie Maletta and a core group of parish partners.
Carlson loves growing in understanding of her rich Catholic faith as she attends daily Mass, prays a daily Rosary and goes to the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel as often as possible.
“I have many spiritual goals, but some of the rocks in my life include attending Daily Mass every day, unless something major is happening, making it to adoration each day, which is such a blessing with our beautiful chapel at SJE, and to pray a daily rosary – devoting and consecrating myself to our Mother Mary. I also now hope to make it to the shrine once a week now that I live so close.
Carlson still enjoys playing volleyball and being outside as much as possible. “If you live in St. John, you have probably seen me on my bike riding to Mass or around the neighborhoods or out for a run. I also enjoy cooking and baking. Since I live alone, I love sharing what I make with others, as well as hosting social events. I love to travel, which is why I have a huge passion for traveling on mission trips.”
Caption: Katherine Carlson joins Keith Burke, service and outreach coordinator, and Father Declan McNichols on Aug. 8 at St. John the Evangelist. The trio is planning opportunities for parish partners to go on mission trips domestically and internationally. (Lynda J. Hemmerling photo)