This summer and early fall the Center for Catholic Studies welcomed three new staff members and said goodbye to two staff members. Here are the stories behind the changes.
Mary HarnanSitzmann Hall’s visitors will see a new face when they enter the building this semester. Mary Harnan now sits in the chair Kathy Fell had occupied since the program’s beginning. “I’m filling the shoes of thirty-plus years,” Harnan says. “I have big feet, but I think I will need size 18 shoes!”
Formerly a multimedia news assistant for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Harnan decided the time for change had come when the company offered employees a buyout option last year. “I always tell my kids: in order to grow, you gotta go.” She took her own advice and applied for “something totally different and challenging” with Catholic Studies. Harnan’s role as the center’s coordinator is to support the center in a multitude of ways, including working with students participating in the Rome program. Although she admits her job “can be very overwhelming,” Harnan says she instantly felt at home in her new workplace. “When I just stepped into the building, it felt like when I would visit my grandmother in St. Cloud!” she said.
Harnan, who graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in mass communication and public relations, lives with her family in Circle Pines, Minnesota.
Theresa KleinAfter completing an internship last year for the Mission of the Holy See at the United Nations in New York, St. Thomas graduate Theresa Klein returned to Sitzmann Hall in October as the Catholic Studies program recruiter. Klein will “create a national outreach strategy,” promoting the interdisciplinary Catholic Studies program to high school students, parishes and other organizations.
Klein graduated in May 2006 with Catholic Studies and Spanish majors and a political science minor. “I recognize that one of the best parts of the Catholic Studies program is that you can have another degree,” Klein said. “You are able to combine them and go into the world. You realize how to be a light to the world in your own way.” In her new position, she will use her Spanish background in working with Latino communities and students in the southern United States. “My job is exciting because there is a great amount of trust from the leadership at the center, which encourages me to take initiative,” Klein said. Klein looks forward to interacting with current Catholic Studies students, and will be active in projects such as the Leadership Interns program and the Rome program.
Laura StiermanLaura Stierman joined the staff of the University of St. Thomas’ Lilly grant program, Beyond Career to Calling, in August as assistant coordinator. In addition to overseeing the Lilly grant budget, Stierman plans events for the Aquinas Fellowship program and the Habiger Lecture series. “I also work with anyone interested in vocation of any kind,” Stierman says.
Although new to Sitzmann Hall, Stierman is no stranger to St. Thomas. In May 2007, Stierman graduated from the university with a degree in theology, and she is currently taking master’s classes at the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity. Years earlier, she began her undergraduate career at Iowa State but left to raise her six children. “I saw motherhood as a vocation and jumped in with both feet,” Stierman says, yet she promised herself that someday she would earn her degree. After reaching that goal last May, she felt God calling her to the Department of Catholic Studies. “I love my Catholic faith, and I thought Catholic Studies would be a delightful fit for what I wanted in my vocation.”
Brian GreenThe Center for Catholic Studies bid farewell to Brian Green, assistant director of the Lilly grant program, in August. For four years, Green worked with groups such as the Aquinas Fellowship and the Catholic Studies Leadership Intern programs, helping students learn about and embrace their vocations. Now Green serves as senior associate director for the ACE (Alliance for Catholic Education) Fellowship at the University of Notre Dame. “Catholic Studies helped define my vocation so that I could continue to work within the ministry of Catholic education,” Green says.
Each ACE class consists of 90 Master of Arts in Education students who spend two years teaching in the country’s under-resourced Catholic schools. “We try to continue to inspire and engage our graduates to revitalize the life of the Church,” Green says. With an ACE community forming in the Twin Cities, Green hopes his new position will enable him to continue to work closely with the Department of Catholic Studies.
Leah StrandSince 2004, Leah Strand served as the Center for Catholic Studies’ coordinator of recruitment and marketing efforts. Strand, who graduated from the University of St. Thomas in 2003 with a degree in journalism and Catholic Studies, invited prospective and current St. Thomas students to explore their faith with Catholic Studies and worked to promote the program locally and nationally.
In August, Strand accepted a position as annual fund coordinator for the development office at the Academy of Holy Angels, a Catholic high school in Richfield, Minn. While Strand admitted it was bittersweet to leave Catholic Studies and St. Thomas, she was ready to embrace a new opportunity. As annual fund coordinator, Strand says she works closely with donors, organizes various fundraising events and is responsible for the department’s communication needs.
The Center for Catholic Studies wishes them both great success in their new endeavors.