By Tracey Breashears Schultz, Bishop’s Associate for Leadership

Donna Krueger and I first talked about Candidacy in December of 2019. She drove from Columbus, TX to meet me at a restaurant in Katy, TX, and we enjoyed a long lunch while she told me her call story. At the time, she was somewhat apprehensive. She had not been a student for a long time and was worried about the academic rigors of seminary. She’d enjoyed a successful career as a senior officer in banking. A mother to three and grandmother to five, when most would be settling into retirement, she was thinking about following God’s call. She talked as if she expected me to discourage her in her journey toward ordination, but she also exhibited a great faith, trusting that God had plans for her. Recently, I had the delight of catching up with Donna. She completes her coursework in December and her internship in the Spring.

Donna grew up in Center, TX, near the Piney Woods of East Texas. When she was a teenager, she moved with her family to Columbus, TX. As an adult, Donna found a church home at Trinity Lutheran-Frelsburg (in New Ulm) and was very much involved in their shared ministry with St John-New Ulm. She knows and loves rural and small town settings. This made her a perfect candidate for the TEEM program. TEEM, short for Theological Education for Emerging Ministries, is for those candidates in particular contexts (such as rural or ethnic specific communities or mission starts). TEEM candidates serve as pastoral leaders while they are going to school with the intent that they would be ordained to serve in the community that has raised them up and supported them. In Donna’s case, she was worshiping and serving at Trinity-Frelsburg as well as at St John-New Ulm, but soon after she began seminary, these congregations found themselves in transition and entered the call process. Donna needed a new place to learn and grow, so she opened herself up to the possibilities, and the Spirit stirred!

In the summer of 2021, she served on staff at Lutherhill as camp chaplain. In November of the same year, she began her CPW (Contextual Pastoral Education-Wartburg) at Kruse Village under the supervision of Pastor Glenn Hohlt, chaplain at Kruse. Having completed CPW, Donna still volunteers there weekly. When it came time for her to begin internship this Spring, our synod partnered with the Southwestern Texas Synod, and she is now known as Vicar Donna to two rural congregations – Grace-Giddings and Faith-McDade.

As she talked with me about leading worship, preaching, being present for council meetings (at both churches) and internship committee meetings (at both churches), preparing to teach first communion and confirmation, and driving the (8-10 hours each week) to visit her parishioners in their homes, nursing homes, or at the hospital, she spoke as someone who has had this role in ministry her whole life.

I asked her if she remembered when she first talked to me, and I reminded her that at one time, she was concerned she would not feel worthy to preside at communion or to be the one to offer the sacraments. I asked what had changed, and she said, “I took the focus off of me…it’s God through me.” She appreciates how people respond when they receive communion, knowing it’s God’s grace. She spoke of one woman (in a nursing home) who was so grateful for the gift of communion, she kissed Vicar Donna’s hand after receiving the sacrament. Moments like that energize Donna and affirm her call.

With the help of her internship supervisor, Pastor Jen Kindsvatter, Donna is learning to try new things and to suggest changes to worship. She is finding her voice and her own leadership style. She has been surprised by how often she finds herself reaching into her toolbox from her years in banking: administrative skills, human resources, and time management, to be sure. Donna encourages others to follow God’s call. It’s never too late!

As she reflected on her life and ministry since that day we first met for lunch, although she never quoted the psalm, I could not help but hear, “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy (Psalm 126).”

Are you considering a call to ministry? Let’s talk! I welcome the conversation.