Like everyone else whose lives have been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, LeAnn Korsmeyer has been longing for “normal.”
She recognized long ago that mundane and uneventful times are prime opportunities to encounter, worship and serve God.
They’re also a vital training ground for the times that are difficult and eventful.
“You have to live in the moment, in today,” insisted Mrs. Korsmeyer, the Jefferson City diocese’s new director of parish and charitable ministries.
“And even in the busy-ness and mundaneness of a ‘normal’ day, that’s when we hold onto Christ, that’s when we pray, that’s when we ‘train up,’” she said. “We stay on our knees, doing what God wants us to do.”
Mrs. Korsmeyer recently succeeded Sister Kathleen Wegman of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, now retired, as diocesan director of parish and charitable ministries.
She moved into the role just as the parish phase of discernment for a new diocesan pastoral plan was getting under way — and right before the pandemic threw everything into sudden, yet surprisingly fruitful turmoil.
“Who would have thought?” said Mrs. Korsmeyer. “Our bishop was sharing with us this vision of us being ‘better together,’ of our parishes being widely recognized as centers of charity and mercy — I like to say that he was pouring that oil over us — and then it was like we were being baptized by fire!
“We thought we’d have some time to think about what it all means, and then suddenly it became ‘The need is now! The need is real! Let’s go and serve!’” she said.
People throughout the diocese have stepped-up to look out for each other and cast their gaze toward the peripheries.
“This is what we’ve been training for all of our lives,” Mrs. Korsmeyer insisted. “We’ve been sent out on mission in ways we never anticipated.”
She’s been amazed at people’s response to the bishop’s invitation to volunteer in any way possible as communities have weathered stay-at-home orders and limited mobility.
She and her administrative assistant, Erin Boeckmann, processed hundreds of online volunteer applications for Parish Disaster Responder Teams.
Mrs. Korsmeyer noted that parishes and the diocese have always been immersed in charitable activities, “but now people are stepping-up as representatives of the Church, one Body, and taking cooperation and collaboration to a new level.”
She’s convinced that that experience will be invaluable toward discerning further needs and planning sustained ministries in parishes.
“It’s just amazing how God puts everybody in place to serve,” she said. “And now more than ever, our role in the Chancery needs to be helping to facilitate that and being a positive resource for the people.”
Something to share
Bishop McKnight originally hired Mrs. Korsmeyer last July to help facilitate the Church’s ministry to women of the diocese.
“Women’s ministry has been going on since the first woman walked the earth,” she noted. “So this started out as an opportunity to collaborate and facilitate many of the good things that were already going on in the diocese so that even more people could reap the benefits.”
Woman are often the most active parishioners and effective evangelizers of young people. But in this age, they are often too overwhelmed with demands and responsibilities to be able to stop and enjoy each other’s company while walking and resting in the Lord.
“We saw a need for women to have a hub, where we could gather and unite and form community and share resources and then be sent back out on mission,” said Mrs. Korsmeyer. “It is also a great opportunity to form women into ministries that specifically address women’s spiritual needs. All of us who work in the Chancery are a resource to people in the parishes. They tell us what they need, and we try to help them.”
She noted that while women’s ministry is important, it’s just a part of something much larger.
“We need women and men to have opportunities to grow in fellowship and community,” she noted. “There are activities that are better for men and women to do separately. But there are many opportunities — such as the Eucharist, devotions, community events, and service projects — that we should be doing together.”
“In this moment”
Mrs. Korsmeyer had been serving for 12 years as director of religious education at St. Stanislaus parish in Wardsville, coordinating sacramental preparation, religious education and an array of faith formation opportunities for young people and adults.
She facilitated volunteer and fellowship opportunities between St. Stanislaus parishioners and the Salvation Army’s Center of Hope Shelter in Jefferson City.
She believes her opportunity to serve at the diocesan level “came to be through the grace of God.”
She had been friends with Sr. Kathleen since Father Gregory Meystrik introduced them when he was pastor in Wardsville and Osage Bend.
“I had said to him, ‘I feel that God is calling me toward something,’” Mrs. Korsmeyer recalled. “Fr. Meystrik said, ‘There’s someone you need to meet.’”
Sr. Kathleen quickly became her mentor, helping her discern a calling to a more active role in the Church.
“I believe it was God’s intention that Sr. Kathleen and I meet,” said Mrs. Korsmeyer. “We formed this great friendship. She walked with me and showed me how to look in the right direction, toward the light.”
That friendship deepened while Mrs. Korsmeyer and her family weathered the fear, discomfort, disappointment, acceptance, hope and eventual healing and restoration from her cancer diagnosis and rounds of chemotherapy, radiation and surgeries.
“We had some really great conversations,” Mrs. Korsmeyer recalled. “She helped me realize that God has a purpose for every single one of us, and sometimes He calls us to do things or go through times that make us uncomfortable so that we become stronger and more focused on Him and so we can help other people get to know Him.”
That’s also when she learned the value of “now” and of giving her full attention to whatever and whoever God places before her.
“When you look to Christ, He is the light in the darkness,” she said. “You learn to ask, ‘Where is Christ in this moment? Where is He leading me?’ And that’s the direction you move in.”
Healed by Christ
Mrs. Korsmeyer grew up in a household with five children.
Shortly after her father died when she was 10, her mother began taking her and her siblings to a small Baptist church every Sunday.
One day when she was about 13, young LeAnn made an altar call and gave her life to Christ.
“That was one of the defining moments in my life,” she stated. “I fell in love with God.”
She made some mistakes and turned away from God, but He kept calling her back until she realized that “God always makes it better.”
“I am only healed because of the love of Christ,” she insisted. “That’s what puts you back together.”
She became Catholic through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in 1983.
She and her husband Steve have been married for 38 years. They have two sons and a daughter and seven grandchildren.
Over time, she has developed a fondness for rustic antiques.
“I think they’re very symbolic,” she said. “They’re like the character of people and their woundedness and brokenness and glorified state of coming back to Christ and having Him purify them and accept them and renew them.”
She likens it to God’s ongoing renewal of the ordained and the laity in the midst of scandals and worldwide crises in the Church.
“I think it’s beautiful,” she said. “It’s the light of Christ shining through those little pieces that aren’t perfect.”
“Through the maze”
Mrs. Korsmeyer believes the Blessed Mother is the greatest role model for Christian women.
“She trusted Jesus and knows that He wants only what’s best for us,” said Mrs. Korsmeyer. “And what does she tell us? ‘Do whatever Jesus tells you to do.’
“None of us is perfect, so we look to Him for answers,” she said. “We rely on His love and mercy and know that He is walking with us and guiding us through the maze.”
Focusing on the “big picture” has moved her to marvel at the complementarity between men and women in the Church.
“Everyone has an individual, God-given role,” she said. “There is no lesser or better role.”
“Whoever sits before me”
Mrs. Korsmeyer was pleased to take on an expanded role in the diocese’s ministry structure.
As a member of Bishop McKnight’s ministry team, she is working to help parishes grow in their capacity to govern themselves effectively, identify needs in their communities and find the most effective ways to help people in the name of Christ and His Church.
Toward that end, with help from her colleagues in ministry, she is serving as the bishop’s liaison to Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri, the Samaritan Center and other avenues of Christian charity.
She is eager to help parishes cultivate leaders from among their members who will work with priests and deacons to foster collaboration with other religious and secular organizations.
She said the goal must always be to help lead people to Christ, assist people in need and promote what’s good for everyone.
As development of the diocesan pastoral plan continues through this summer and into the fall, her role is likely to continue evolving.
She’ll balance the demands of coordinating parish and charitable ministries and promoting and facilitating women’s ministry in the parishes.
She comes to work with no preconceived notion about what any given day will bring or require.
“Whoever sits before me, that’s where my attention will be,” she said.
She likened it to Jesus’s Parable of the Good Shepherd, who temporarily leaves the 99 sheep in order to help the one that is lost and in need.
“Any mother does that with her children,” she said. “She asks, ‘Who needs me right now?’ And tomorrow, the answer to that will be different, and it will be different the next day and the next.”
Mrs. Korsmeyer requests prayers for wisdom and right thinking in order to serve in whatever way God asks her to serve.
She’s convinced that everything happening right now is part of God’s training plan for what is still to come.
“We don’t know what is next,” she said. “We have to trust that we are ready and able, and we are putting that armor on every day.”
She noted that Jesus never promised an escape from suffering, only the reassurance that He is with us.
“He’s telling us, ‘We’ll do it together. And I’m gonna’ walk with you and suffer with you. In fact, I have suffering for you. I’ve suffered the most horrible pain for you. I’m not leaving you now,’” Mrs. Korsmeyer noted.
“So when we’re afraid or unsure,” she added, “whenever we’re suffering or discouraged by what is going on in our life, just close your eyes to hear Him say, ‘I am with you. We’re going to get through this. Because at the end, there will be glory. There will be a resurrection. Let it be done, according to My will.’”