By Barb Arland-Fye
ALBIA/GEORGETOWN — Teaching 10th grade religious education class in the early 1980s led Sharon Crall on a journey into lay ministry that fills her life completely.
About the time she was teaching the 10th-graders at St. Mary Parish in Albia, she started working for her own parish, St. Patrick’s, in Georgetown. Within a decade, she had moved into lay ministry full-time.
“My story would be, ‘Add on, add on,’” says Crall, who serves as the RCIA director and assistant religious education director in Albia and as pastoral associate in Georgetown. In addition, she works part-time promoting vocations for the Missionaries of the Precious Blood in the Kansas City Province.
“I love all of my ministries,” she explains, even though the ministries involve juggling schedules and a twice-monthly commute to the Kansas City Province in Liberty, Mo.
Her interest in the Precious Blood community goes a long way back. Through her religious education work, she got to know Precious Blood priests who served in Centerville and Albia (which are part of the Ottumwa Deanery, or region).
When Father Joe Miller, C.PP.S., who served in Centerville from 1993-2004, was dean of the Ottumwa Deanery, Crall was the dean secretary and worked closely with him.
More recently, Father Bill Walter, C.PP.S., served Albia from 1999-2007, and now Father Mike Volkmer, C.PP.S. is the pastor at Albia.
All of these influences drew Crall to learn more about the Precious Blood community and its charisms, or gifts of ministry and service.
The Missionaries of the Precious Blood has “charisms of reconciliation, forgiveness, hospitality and a great devotion to the blood of Christ,” she said. “We talk about the cry of the blood. What does the cry of the blood lead us to do? It leads us to go out to those on the margins and help them.”
The community’s lay associate program has members called companions. Crall completed a formation program to become a companion. About 27 companions are in the Centerville/Albia area and a new group of 10 is in formation in Albia.
Companions “study the spirituality of the Precious Blood,” she said, but continue with their regular activities. “You look at your daily life through the lens of the Precious Blood.”
When Crall learned that the community’s Kansas City Province headquarters in Liberty, Mo., was looking for help in the vocations office, she applied.
Fr. Miller, who leads the vocations office, knew Crall had the skills the community was looking for. She began her new job in December 2007.
“We decided to choose her, even though she’s about 180 miles from here, because she’s a Precious Blood companion. So she knows the spirituality,” Fr. Miller said. “That’s helpful in interviewing candidates for community life (priesthood and brotherhood); they, too, need to understand the community’s spirituality. Her ideas and creativity help me, too,” Fr. Miller said.
She offers the perspective of a single, female lay minister, to contrast his perspective as an ordained, male priest. They bounce ideas off of each other. “I enjoy her insights,” Fr. Miller said. “I don’t have all of the answers. We learn together.”
Crall said she enjoys the work. “It gives me a bigger picture of church than working in a parish, definitely. You’re looking at the future of the church. You’re looking at the needs of the church. I’m very interested in how we help people discern their vocation.”