Bishop W. Shawn McKnight has updated the responsibilities and titles of two women with long ties to the Jefferson City diocese.
On July 1, Sister Kathleen Wegman of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, who has been serving as chancellor since 2007, will become the diocesan Director of Pastoral and Charitable Services.
She will also continue to serve as a member of the bishop’s cabinet and in several related capacities.
Connie Schepers, director of the diocesan Office for Child and Youth Protection, will succeed Sr. Kathleen as chancellor and will continue as director of the Office for Child and Youth Protection.
These and other assignments are part of an official decree Bishop McKnight promulgated on April 16.
The full decree was published on Page 7 of the April 19 print edition of The Catholic Missourian . Click here to read it online.
“I am deeply grateful to Sister Kathleen Wegman and to Connie Schepers for their eagerness to serve in different, more specific ways that will benefit our entire local Church,” said Bishop McKnight.
“Both are extremely gifted, competent and committed,” he stated. “God will continue to accomplish great things through them.”
Sr. Kathleen became chancellor of the diocese 12 years ago and a member of Bishop McKnight’s cabinet after he was installed in 2018.
She previously served as a Catholic school educator and administrator and as provincial leader of the former St. Louis province of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.
She is the fourth religious sister to hold the position of chancellor here, which prior to 1983 could only be held by a priest.
She is already doing much of the work called for under her new title. This includes visiting parishes, facilitating the smooth and effective functioning of parish pastoral and finance councils, and serving as a liaison between Bishop McKnight and Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri and its affiliated agencies.
Sr. Kathleen believes having her set aside the duties of chancellor in order to pursue this work reflects Bishop McKnight’s vision of parishes as centers for charity and mercy.
A matter of record
Every diocese is required to have a chancellor, whose primary function under Church law is to notarize documents and ensure that records of the bishop’s and his advisors’ official actions “are gathered, arranged and safeguarded in the archive of the curia,” (Code of Canon Law, #482).
The role of chancellor in this diocese underwent a gradual but profound evolution over the decades due to needs and a shortage of personnel.
The pending change reflects Bishop McKnight’s intention to realign the office of chancellor more closely with its canonical roots.
In addition to Mrs. Schepers’s work of promoting safe environments and child and youth protection for the diocese, she will oversee the diocesan archives, see to it that documents are properly filed for safekeeping, and will sign and affix the official diocesan seal to important documents and diocesan decrees.
“Much of what I will be doing concerns the protection of the children and youth in our diocese. We must be sure that those in the diocese who work with our children and youth are safe adults and are in compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People as well as our own diocesan requirements. Our volunteers and employees attend a program called ‘Protecting God’s Children’ and undergo background checks.”
The Charter, approved by the U.S. Catholic bishops in 2002, provides consistent, verifiable norms for ensuring that all of the Church’s environments are safe for children and others who are vulnerable.
Mrs. Schepers, who became the diocese’s safe environment coordinator in February of this year, has been serving for 22 years as defender of the bond for the Diocesan Tribunal.
The Tribunal primarily handles cases in which Catholics seek a declaration of nullity of a previous attempt at marriage, due to impediments. An annulment frees both people to be married in the Church.
Mrs. Schepers came to work in the Chancery in 1990. She previously served as the secretary and bookkeeper for Annunciation parish in California.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master’s degree in counseling and a master’s degree in pastoral theology.
In 1997, she completed the coursework at The Catholic University of America that made her eligible to serve in her role in the Tribunal.
As she prepares to take up her new responsibilities, Mrs. Schepers requested prayers for her to be able to serve well and be of benefit to the people in need of her services.
To help God answer that prayer, she asks for people who need her help, especially in complying with the Church’s protocols for providing safe environments for children and young people, to ask for it.
For strong parishes
Sr. Kathleen said she’s excited about her new appointment.
“This is actually the lion’s share of what I’ve been doing here for years,” she said. “Now I get to be totally dedicated to it.”
Part of her ministry description since she arrived in 2007 has been director of pastoral services.
That involves helping parish pastoral councils and finance councils in the diocese understand and carry-out their respective roles and responsibilities, and assisting parishes with long-term planning.
Last year, Bishop McKnight appointed her also to serve as the diocese’s liaison to Catholic healthcare, primarily the SSM St. Mary’s Hospitals in Jefferson City and Mexico, and to Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri.
“With Bishop McKnight’s vision of parishes as centers of charity and mercy, he has decided to release me full-time to focus just on this area more thoroughly,” she said.
She will continue to serve as diocesan delegate to sisters and brothers who are members of religious communities, and as chair of the Diocesan Review Board, which advises the bishop on general policy and specific allegations of abuse under the Charter for Protection of Children and Young People.
Sr. Kathleen noted that because most of people’s contact with the Church and the day-to-day work of ministry and evangelization happens at the parish level, promoting parish vitality is essential.
“As we grow as a diocesan Church, we need strong parishes,” she stated. “The clergy and the laity, by virtue of their baptism, both bear responsibility for carrying out Christ’s mission.
“In other words, we are stewards of that mission,” she continued. “And to the degree that that’s a good and healthy working relationship, we have a strong parish.”
She asks for prayers “that together, as the people of God, we can embrace the responsibilities entrusted to our care.”
People can help answer that prayer “simply by faithfully living their baptismal call,” she said.