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Seattle University


Leaving the chapel

Written by Mike Thee
June 7, 2010

It’s nearly impossible to think of Kathy Collins, assistant director of faith formation, without having that “Going to the Chapel…” song by the Dixie Cups run through your head. Collins started working at Seattle University the very same week the Chapel of St. Ignatius opened. It was a symbolic beginning to what has been a 13-year relationship of sorts.

Collins is leaving SU this month after logging countless hours in the chapel. Just as countless are the students and alumni whose lives she has touched during her time in Campus Ministry.

“Kathy will definitely be missed!” says Mike Bayard, S.J., director of Campus Ministry. “Kathy brings a kind, encouraging, compassionate spirit to all that she does in Campus Ministry.  Certainly our students will miss her as well as so many across our university.”

For her first 11 years at SU, Collins coordinated every single marriage that took place in the chapel—about 500 in all. These past two years, she shifted her focus to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program (R.C.I.A.) while still helping with marriage preparation.

She considers herself privileged to have walked with so many people on their faith journeys—whether it be the couples getting ready for their lives together or the R.C.I.A. candidates preparing to receive the sacraments of initiation.

For many a high-strung bride, Collins has been a calming presence. Along the way, she’s discovered some unusual “other duties as assigned” in her job description. She recalls, for instance, lending her slip to a bride on her wedding day. She’s also met some characters, like the makeup artist for a ballerina bride who drew an elaborate makeup plan on a mirror in the chapel.

Asked what she’ll miss most about working at SU, Collins responds: “Oh my gosh, that’s such a hard question. Every day I realize something else I’m going to miss. Certainly all the relationships and the important questions we talk about. I’ve been on a lot of amazing committees. The Jesuits—I love the Jesuits. Leaving is really significant, because in Campus Ministry it becomes your spiritual life and your social life and your work life all in one. I certainly plan to stay connected.”

Collins says she made the decision to move on to something new after listening to a homily by David Leigh, S.J., during Lent this year. “Fr. Leigh was talking about how it’s really difficult to discern when your calendar is full, and I thought—That’s my life, my calendar is always so full I can’t really look at the next steps. So I’m looking forward to some time and space to discern.”

She says she’ll probably work with L’Arche, a community with which she is already involved. Longer term, she and her husband are considering doing some service overseas, something she’s had a lot of experience with at SU, having led several mission trips to countries in Latin America.

“Part of the reason I feel like I can leave now,” says Collins, “is Campus Ministry is in a great place with a solid team. We’ve had a lot of transition over the past couple years, but it’s really stable now. Mike Bayard is wonderful.”

Asked about her favorite parts of the chapel, Collins ticks off a list that only an intimate admirer could muster. “I love the Eucharistic chapel, the beeswax on the walls. I love the way the building shifts with the seasons, with various lights interiorly and exteriorly. It’s extraordinary. I’ve never gotten tired of being in the building. God is so present there.”

Her feelings for SU are similarly adoring. “I’ve loved this university and I do love this university—the students and the mission and the way we really live out a faith that does justice. I feel like I’ve had my heart and soul expanded so many times.”

A farewell gathering will be held for Kathy from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 9 in the Admissions and Alumni Building.