A Conversation with Heather Kinney, Chaplain-in-Residence

This semester, Catholic Chaplaincy Intern, Alexis Larios, C’18, spent time getting to know some of the Catholic women chaplains at Georgetown. Their stories and insights about ministering to students are inspiring, thoughtful, and wise. Here, she interviews Heather Kinney, Chaplain-in-Residence for Harbin Hall. Read more about Heather’s journey to and time at Georgetown below.

What drew you to ministry? What did your path to Georgetown look like?

I’m a practicing Catholic, but I wasn’t always. It was a friend’s invitation to a retreat toward the end of my first year of college that changed the trajectory of my life, so much so that I changed my major from journalism to religious studies in the middle of my junior year and ultimately opted for a career in ministry, which I’ve been doing ever since. What drew me to ministry was the desire to accompany adults, whatever age, as they discern the answers to their questions of belonging, faith, meaning, purpose, relationships, and vocation.

Before coming to Georgetown almost four years ago, I was a college campus minister in Cleveland and San Diego and a high school campus minister and parish minister here in the DC area. A few friends of mine have served as chaplains-in-residence over the years, and I’ve always been interested in the role. But it was only a few years ago, as I was making a career transition, that I felt I’d have the time to commit to this ministry.

What advice would you give to students who are trying to discern callings or next steps?

When people ask me how I would describe God, I often answer, “God is a God of surprises.” As a Catholic Christian, I think of “surprises” such as the Incarnation of Jesus or the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to his disciples on the road to Emmaus. In other words, God often meets us in ways we do not or would not expect. Twenty-plus years ago, when I was a non-practicing Catholic studying journalism at the nation’s best journalism school, I couldn’t have imagined how the next decades would unfold. So be open. Be open to what your heart or gut is telling you and to what other people are telling you. If people are saying to you, “I could totally see you doing this” or “You’d be great at that,” listen to them. They just might be right. And find a mentor, someone who can help you discern what these voices are saying.

What is your favorite thing about Georgetown?

I’m so grateful for all the opportunities Georgetown offers to help me grow in my understanding and living out of Ignatian spirituality. My spirituality has always been Ignatian, even before I knew anything about St. Ignatius or the Jesuits. For me, spirituality is about three things: awareness, which leads to gratitude, which leads to action. Awareness of God’s presence and activity in my life and in the world. Gratitude for the many gifts God has given me. And action: sharing my gifts with those in need of what I have to share.

What is your favorite part of being a CIR?

Meeting students, whether in person or through the email messages I send each week. We chaplains are a soft place to land amidst the turbulence of college life, and we speak from years of experience. We’re asking the same questions students are – those questions of “ultimate concern” – we’ve just been asking them longer.

How, if at all, do your identities impact your role? How do you engage so many diverse identities?

As a lay Catholic woman, I hope I’m modeling well for students that faith and life are not incompatible and that sacramental priesthood is not the only way to serve as a leader with impact in the Catholic Church.

What is one thing you wish students knew about you that they may not know at first?

Not so much wish they knew, but they may be surprised to know I don’t love chocolate or cookies, both of which are regular features of my open houses.

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A Conversation with Kathy Maguire-Zeiss, Chaplain-in-Residence

Dr. Kathy Maguire-Zeiss (right) with her children, Morgan (left) and Ben (center)

This semester, Catholic Chaplaincy Intern, Alexis Larios, C’18, spent time getting to know some of the Catholic women chaplains at Georgetown. Their stories and insights about ministering to students are inspiring, thoughtful, and wise. Here, she interviews Dr. Kathy Maguire-Zeiss, Chaplain-in-Residence for Village C East. Read more about Kathy’s journey at Georgetown below.

What drew you to ministry? What did your path to Georgetown look like?

I came to Georgetown in 2007, when I had no intention of coming to Georgetown. I was at a point in my career where I was offered tenure at my university. I was widowed in 1998, so I was busy as a single parent and we had a really nice community of people who helped us and that community was really important to me. But, when you’re getting a financial package [from a university], you have to have something to compare it to, so I interviewed here to get a comparison, and when I interviewed I fell in love with Georgetown. It’s easier to look back now and see why that was, but all I knew was that I had a feeling I wanted to be here.

Looking back at the Neuroscience department, I realized that it was a wonderful, collaborative space, and there were a lot more women in leadership positions, which I didn’t realize was important to me. When I came to Georgetown, I knew it was Catholic and Jesuit, but I didn’t think that being in a Catholic university was critical to my career. I am a cradle Catholic and I think because of that I had my children go to Catholic schools. Both Ben and Morgan at one point or another were in Jesuit schools, so I always felt like they had inside information about the Examen and Jesuits that I didn’t. So the truth of how all it emerged is that I was walking through campus and I saw the Prayer in Daily Life poster, and the date was near my birthday, so I said let’s do this.

My first spiritual director was Sister Helen Scarry, and she introduced me to Ignatian prayer. After that, I participated in the 19th Annotation [an alternative version of St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises] under the direction of Fr. Joe Lingan and that experience really changed things. I finally realized how much God loves me and in turn I came to see people in a different way, as individuals loved by God. The idea that it changed my view of science, or my classes, isn’t true, but it does change how I see my students – I feel that we’re always working together to go even deeper in our subject.

So, as I continued in spiritual direction and through prayer, I felt like God was still drawing me closer and to something more. I don’t think of myself as “all that”; I was a first-generation college student who just liked science and kept doing it. But through spiritual direction and prayer, I realized that when my students came to talk to me about class, they usually ended up talking to me about real life. So to get more training, I joined Holy Trinity Parish’s Ignatian Formation training to be a spiritual director. I just kept having the yearning to do more of this work and that prompted me to apply to be a Chaplain-in-Residence. I don’t want this to sound weird, but I went on the 5-day retreat once as an aide and what I realized during that experience was that I had a lot more love to give. The bottom line is that I feel called to help people. For the first time in my life I’m okay not knowing where I’m going. I just want to be open to going where I’m needed. Ignatian spirituality isn’t the only way, but it’s a way.

Living with the students is a great thing for me – helping them and telling them that they matter, that they matter to God, whether or not they believe in him. I see the students as young adults and I think we enjoy each others’ company; we just hang out and talk about their everyday lives. There are days when I have open house and I’m really tired beforehand so I’m not very excited, but then they come and I don’t want them to leave. I feel energized and I feel the Easter joy we hear about so much.

What advice would you give to students who are trying to discern next steps or callings?

Certainly, if you can connect with a spiritual director, I think there’s nothing like it. You don’t even have to be sure there is a God to get started, what’s important is that piece we remind students about at Georgetown: reflection. So if you are making a decision, like what job to take? Take time to imagine what would it be like to be in that job – give yourself a couple of days with that if you can.  Another way would be to imagine what you would say to a friend who is thinking about taking a similar job. These are just a couple of ways to proceed but important in all of this is to pray and share what you are considering with God.  Then discuss this with your spiritual director – that is, seek wise counsel. As as scientist, I believe you need to gather the information and data to discern. These things aren’t just based on emotion, you do need data. And take courage, because a lot of the time what keeps us from doing things is fear. Just take courage and know that if you screw up, it’s not your only chance. If you’re afraid you’re going to miss the “call” by not doing something right now, know that it’s okay because God will keep calling you.

What is your favorite thing about Georgetown?

I think it’s the undercurrent of people really caring about people. We have great examples of this with our colleagues, students and of course the Jesuits that aid us along the way. This is something that is unique about Jesuit colleges and universities and believe me, it’s not always the case that a work environment is so collaborative and pleasant. Of course, perhaps my favorite thing are the students because frankly we wouldn’t be here without them.

What is your favorite part of being a Chaplain-in-Residence?

I love the open houses and interactions with the students. It’s the best part. Definitely. There’s this joy that’s hard to put into words and that’s something I’d like students to see: that this way of life is really joyful. It’s a really small apartment, you know, but now it doesn’t bother me at all. I love having a much simpler life.

How do your identities impact your role? How do you engage diverse identities?

I’m a lot older than the students so I learn a lot from them. What many of the students face are not things that were talked about when I was in college or growing up. Even as a first generation college student I still feel like I’ve led a privileged life. What the students have taught me is that it’s important to see people. There are three things that I think make this ministry a ministry of consolation: attention, reverence and devotion. For me attention is noticing the person – who are they really? What is unique about them? Reverence is a call to not try to change them; it is an invitation to accept them for who they are and doing so in a loving way. And devotion means staying with them as they go through whatever they’re going through and noticing where God is in all of this.

I’m just a white woman from a middle class, Irish Catholic background, but I think I can identify with students because they share their experiences with me. And, I think my age and having grown kids who went through the college experience already, enables me to listen and empathize. Experience helps. Having gone through losing my parents, a brother, and my husband, those experiences are helpful to putting things into perspective and can help students when they’re going through their first loss. And, I think having children really opened me up to something, too, because there’s so much love there – my children really taught me how to love. For me the parent-child relationship is the closest thing to God-love because I love them just because they exist, and that’s helped me to see students with love.

What is one thing you wish students knew about you that they may not know at first?

Maybe just how much I care about them without even knowing them. You know there’s this thing about conversation: it opens up everything, which I guess is why I’m drawn to spiritual direction. It leads to conversion of heart, not like becoming Catholic or something, but if you’re holding onto anxieties, stress, etc. conversation can open that up. And I hope students know that they can come to me with anything. Also I’m pretty funny – or at least I think so!

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A Conversation with Lindsay Kelleher, Chaplain-in-Residence

This semester, Catholic Chaplaincy Intern, Alexis Larios, C’18, spent time getting to know some of the Catholic women chaplains at Georgetown. Their stories and insights about ministering to students are inspiring, thoughtful, and wise. Here, she interviews Lindsay Kelleher, Chaplain-in-Residence for Alumni Square and Townhouses, where she lives with her husband and their son, Jack. Read more about Lindsay’s journey at Georgetown below.

What drew you to being a Chaplain-in-Residence? What did your path to Georgetown look like?

My role as Chaplain-in-Residence was unexpected. I knew nothing about residential living, but my fiance and I were moving to D.C. in the summer of 2012 and I had been hired to teach at Georgetown Visitation. On Facebook, a former CIR posted that residential ministry was looking for one more person to join the team, and my brother found it and forwarded the email to me. I looked at it and couldn’t believe it was such a great opportunity. To know that I could be a full time teacher and do this was really attractive. Michelle [Siemietkowski] was the director at that time and I basically sent her my resume and cover letter the next day and was lucky to tell her that we were flying to DC the next week, and it all fell together. We moved across the country and basically tried to figure out this new role. That first semester living in New South, I was engaged and wrapping up wedding details, my husband was a first semester PhD student, so there were so many transitions happening, but I wasn’t really overwhelmed. I loved starting in a first year dorm, to have my door open and have students come in and out, was a great way to be introduced to Georgetown and students, and built my confidence as a chaplain. Having taught high school, it felt like they were my former students. It felt very providential to me.

What advice would you give to students who are trying to discern next steps or callings?

These are my favorite conversations to have as a CIR! There are so many discernment opportunities in college: where to study abroad, what to do after senior year, where to go for spring break. These tend to be the core of my conversations with students, especially when it’s something someone has never planned on doing. My advice is to be patient with themselves and not to feel like they have to have the answer immediately, which is hard especially if there’s a deadline looming, and to have conversations with people they trust. I think everybody, and often times Georgetown students, need to hear that an opportunity or a next step might feel like it’s way outside of our comfort zone and not expected, it might seem like a disappointment, not part of my 5 year plan, but it’s one step. Ask for the courage to take one step at a time and trust that nothing is ever wasted. So many of the opportunities and steps I’ve taken weren’t exactly how I drew them up, and they’ve been gateways to incredible growth. But they require courage. I think that’s the unique part about this role: we are encouraged to be incarnational, to just share who we are, and students seem very interested in what brought me here, how my husband and I met, so I just share my experiences, my joys, and my sorrows as well.

What is your favorite thing about Georgetown?

I have loved getting to know the Jesuits here. It’s such a joy to attend the liturgies that they preach at, and to receive the sacraments from them is such a gift. I’ve learned so much about Jesuit spirituality from them, they’ve facilitated several transformative retreats I’ve been to in my six years at Georgetown, so I think that’s been a great part of my time here.

What is your favorite part about being a CIR?

I’m so honored by the trust in the CIR-student relationship. Of course that trust has to be earned, but students will bring their needs, their struggles, their joys, their questions. They might bring something they haven’t brought to anyone else, and I may not be able to solve the problem, but they desire that I journey with them and that’s a privilege. I feel really indebted to those CIRs in freshmen buildings because they establish that trust and community.

How do your identities impact your role as a CIR? How do you personally engage so many diverse identities?

I’ve been through a lot of transitions, and since this is such an incarnational role, I’ve brought the joys and struggles of those things and shared them with my students. The opportunity to serve students of all faith traditions and no faith tradition is such an honor. I’ve learned so much from our students about faith traditions that are not my own, and I bring that to my teaching. I always pray for the humility to, before any student encounter, especially if I have a sense that there’s a situation of grief or sorrow or trauma, I pray for the guidance from the Holy Spirit to say, or not say, whatever that student needs to hear. Probably, the longer I’ve been in this role, the more I’ve realized how no words are necessary in certain situations – presence is all I can offer. A few years ago, a student in my building passed away, and those were the hardest few days I’ve ever had to walk through with Georgetown students. I learned so much about pastoral care from the other chaplains in Copley, and it was a privilege to follow their lead.

What’s one thing about you that students may not know at first?

In my six years at Georgetown, I’ve never eaten a meal at Leo’s and I feel like it’s a rite of passage!

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Prayer for Peace and Justice: Recognizing Earth Day and the Georgetown Environment Initiative

On Tuesday, April 17, we welcomed the Georgetown Environment Initiative as the special guest for our weekly Chaplains’ Tea. Following the tea at our Prayer for Peace and Justice, our Managing Director Aaron Johnson shared a prayer and a poem by Nathalie Handal in honor of our guests and Earth Day.

John Muir, Our National Parks: “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin”

Stella Lake, Great Basin National Park. Photo by James Marvin Phelps.


Accepting Heaven at Great Basin
By Nathalie Handal

When you doubt the world, look at the undivided darkness
look at Wheeler Peak, cliffs like suspended prayers

contemplate the cerulean, the gleaming limestone
the frozen shades, the wildflowers

look at the bristlecone pine, a labyrinth to winding wonders
listen to the caves, sing silently

remember the smell of sagebrush, after a thunderstorm
that Lexington Arch, is a bridge of questions

in the solitude of dreams, that here
distances disturb desire, to deliver a collision of breaths

the desert echoes, in this dark night sky
stars reveal the way, a heart can light a world.


Copyright © 2016 by Nathalie Handal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 25, 2016, this poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.


So we pray: Guiding light, lead us into those places of wonder in our world; help us to find
those hallowed and untamed spaces that reveal to us the truth — of our vulnerability and
our interdependence as living things, together; guide us we pray into a deeper
understanding of what it means to belong. Amen

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Standing for Solidarity, Marching for Change

On the morning of Saturday, March 24, Campus Ministry hosted students for a special interfaith prayer, breakfast, and reflection before walking together to Capitol Hill for the March for Our Lives, a national student-led demonstration in support of tighter gun control. Several students were deeply moved both by the events leading up to the march and the march itself – they share their thoughts here:

Jack Thorman (left), Jewish: I felt incredibly lucky to be at the March for our Lives on Saturday. For the first time in a while, I felt hopeful for the future. It was a statement from our generation that we will not sit idly by as long as those in power continue not to represent our interests. I also could not have been more proud of Campus Ministry than I was on Saturday. The Jewish community and the wider Campus Ministry at Georgetown continue to be spaces that inspire and embolden me to speak up in the face of injustice.

Andrea Dressel (left), LutheranI am so thankful I was able to attend the march on Saturday. For the first time in a while, I feel as though my opinion as a young person in the political sphere is important and even necessary, and this validation was a breath of fresh air. I am also grateful I was able to attend with an interfaith group of Georgetown students and faculty. As a Lutheran, my personal faith practice animates much of my social justice work, and I love having a faith community here at school that lifts one another up in doing God’s work. I’m inspired by the love and passion I saw on Saturday and I pray that it will continue in the coming months to build a safer world.

Rev. Becky Zartman (center), Episcopalian:  Within one week in March, Commonplace, the Episcopal-Lutheran campus ministry, went to go see Wrinkle in Time and also attended March for our Lives. These events may seem unrelated, but they aren’t. Written by a faithful Episcopalian, Wrinkle in Time is the story of an unlikely heroine’s dangerous quest to retrieve her father and fight the forces of evil with no weapons, no violence, no killing. On her quest, the main character, Meg Murray must trust a strength that looks like weakness, rely on faith that looks like foolishness and defeat evil not with evil but with goodness and love. When we, as individuals, choose the non-violent struggle against the evil that permeates our world, we are all Meg Murray. Even though our peaceful witness seemed like foolishness to those who prefer the power of guns, this is how love defeats violence. We can do this. We must do it.

Claire Goldberg, Jewish: The March for Our Lives was one of the most uplifting and inspiring things I’ve ever participated in. Getting to see people from all backgrounds, all walks of life, seeing the Veterans for Gun Reform, seeing all the people from the Religious Action Committee, struck me with so much love and hope. Gun violence is an important issue to so many people for so many different reasons, and to get to see students participate in an interfaith prayer before the march and then rise to action proves that it’s not just thoughts and prayers that matter, its action, and organization.

Bryant King (far left), Roman Catholic: Participating in the March for Our Lives with my interfaith brothers and sisters was a powerful experience. Following the example of Cardinal Cupich and other leaders in the American Church, I was driven to stand up with hundreds of thousands throughout our country calling for justice and the protection of the vulnerable. Faith is not a passive act and it was amazing to be in the presence of so many working for the common good. It’s my hope that people of faith will continue to bend Dr. King’s arc toward greater justice in our society (Amos 5:24).

Adam Wagner (left), Protestant: For me, marching was about showing solidarity and support for a cause bigger than myself. Hearing from such inspirational youth leaders and being surrounded by such passionate people was uplifting. The march was important because it provided a space to manifest a collective movement; however, going forward, we must continue to press for change. Personally, this means approaching activism the same way I approach my faith: making it an integral part of me by reflecting, engaging in dialogue with others, and never ceasing in the battle for love and justice.

Zeke Gutierrez (center), Roman Catholic: I participated in the March for Our Lives on Saturday, March 24 with the goal of demonstrating my support and unity to the victims of gun violence. I feel this was an issue that affects multiple communities and the movement finally highlighted the need for gun reform. As a Catholic at Georgetown, the friends and members of the community I marched with understood the need for reform as an issue of greater social justice. Being part of the prayer in the morning helped set the tone of the march where I felt closer to my faith.

Brandi Coleman (left), Protestant: Words can not describe how emotional this day was. There was a moment during the march where I stopped and just reflected. I was absorbing just about everything and trying to harness my emotions. There are so many unexplainable events that occur in this world, but the one that occurred at Stoneman Douglas High School was not one of them. When our lawmakers finally realize gun control is not an issue they can slide under the rug this country will have a chance to prevent such acts of atrocity. As kids, we were always told we would change the world someday. I don’t think I could have ever imagined just how desperately the world, our home, needs us. We are the generation that has the power to change it all and I pray my generation can do so. I pray my children’s children are not fighting the same uphill battle we are now. Today was a lot of things: sad, frustrating, and unfortunate that it had to occur, but most importantly it was empowering. To dream big dreams was instilled in my generation. It’s now time to turn those dreams into a reality. After seeing what I saw today, standing in the midst of greatness, and being led by the powerful youth of my generation I’d say the future looks brighter.

Max Tinter (left), Jewish: Walking down to the Capitol is always an inspiring event. One cannot help but feel the weight of the city, passing by the buildings in which American history has been written. As we drew closer to the sight of the rally, I became equally inspired by the sheer numbers of students traveling from across the country to advocate for a change they desired. Being surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people to watch exclusively young people deliver emotional speeches and personal anecdotes on the impact of gun violence made for a powerful afternoon. As it progressed, I began to realize something I think I will carry with me for a long time: it is not just the bureaucrats in the beautiful buildings that can change the world but also the work and mobilization of the masses. This a powerful cause that has affected countless individuals. Saturday only served to further my faith that efforts for change will not be in vain.

Sean Berman (left), Jewish: For me, the March for Our Lives revealed just how gruesomely mundane and common gun violence is in America. Mass shootings, such as the massacre at Parkland, stun the country, and the March successfully gave voice to several incredibly courageous students who spoke about their traumatic experiences. But the March organizers also illuminated numerous narratives of “everyday” gun violence that largely remain outside of the national discourse. To me, these stories show that our generation is presented with an even more systemic issue about guns than just eliminating AR-15s and high capacity magazines. When I decided to March with an interfaith group from Georgetown, I knew I was adding my voice to a diverse group of Hoyas – which is exactly what tackling gun violence requires. The March for Our Lives taught me that a pluralistic approach to combating this systemic evil in our society is the only way to make sure #neveragain becomes a reality for all Americans, regardless of race, socio-economic status, or ethnicity.
Eamon Coburn (center), Roman Catholic: The sign that has stuck most with me from the March said simply: “One child is worth more than all the guns in the world.” Coincidentally, our day began with the Jewish prayer “Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if they destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if they saved an entire world.” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5; Yerushalmi Talmud 4:9, Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 37a). I think that really sums up the day for me. One life is so much more important than any amount of materials, let alone guns. I don’t believe anyone could look the mother of a child who was shot and killed in the eye and tell her that any amount of guns are worth that one life. Because to her, that child is gone forever and to us, that world is destroyed. And no amount of guns can bring back that child and no amount of guns can revive that world. We need common-sense gun control because if even only one child lives who otherwise would have died, it will be worth it.
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