By Lindsay Steele
Kalli Miner grew up in a non-religious household. Still, her mother was surprised when Kalli pointed to an antique painting of Jesus as a teenager and said, “Who is that?”
Now a 22-year-old college student doing field study work with the Social Action office of the Davenport Diocese, Kalli recalls that moment as a turning point in her life. “I was a really curious kid in general. … I thought, apparently there is a lot to this story of Jesus.”
Hailing from Glenwood in southeast Iowa, she began to explore churches of “all kinds,” even visiting mosques and Jewish temples. She settled into a nondenominational church initially, but felt like something was missing — something she couldn’t quite put her finger on.
She began to find what she was missing after enrolling at Loras College in Dubuque, a Catholic institution. She had a heart for social justice and became part of the college’s Peace and Justice Ministry group. “I remember this light bulb going off — like ‘Holy cow! These are the people I’ve been looking for my entire life.’ …I was indifferent to the fact that it was a Catholic group.”
Indifference soon turned to curiosity. Through this group, she began learning more about the faith. She loved the social justice aspects of church teaching and liked that Catholicism has a sacred, traceable history. “It’s not as easy to manipulate and change the faith in order to fit our lifestyles,” she said.
She found Catholics to have a healthy interpretation of the Bible because “they consider the influences of the times and the personalities of the authors.”
Each time she had a question or objection, someone was there to help. Initially, she found the idea of True Presence in the Eucharist hard to understand. “A priest explained to me that we perceive things to change based on physical attributes, but the Eucharist changes in a way that is not physically apparent. It’s very enlightening and mind-blowing.” She also struggled with the patriarchal leadership structure of the church but realized that it was not a “hostile” tradition and that women are valued in the church. “It doesn’t mean the church thinks men are better,” she explained.
She made the decision to become Catholic and was confirmed earlier this year. Her agnostic parents are supportive and are working toward understanding the faith better, she said. “It’s hard because I could never explain it to them in an elevator speech.”
But it wasn’t just her faith that changed; her life goals did, too. “My life changed 100 percent. Before, I was concerned with proving myself by being in a career that looked good on paper and made a lot of money. I changed my major to social work. … My intentions are much more altruistic than before,” she said. She will graduate from Loras at the end of the summer and hopes to work in social justice, advocating for the marginalized in society. Her field study in Davenport will fulfill a course requirement and help prepare her for future work in the field. “My goal is to tell the truth. I want to find a social action niche where I can help people in a way that doesn’t depend on superficial solutions,” she said.
Working in social justice and living life as a Catholic, she’s found her niche. “Life is much richer and more authentic.”
(Editor’s note: Lindsay Steele is a reporter for The Catholic Messenger. Contact her at email@example.com or by phone at (563) 888-4248.)