A Conversation with Heather Kinney, Chaplain-in-Residence

This semester, Catholic Chaplaincy Intern, Alexis Larios, C’18, spent time getting to know some of the Catholic women chaplains at Georgetown. Their stories and insights about ministering to students are inspiring, thoughtful, and wise. Here, she interviews Heather Kinney, Chaplain-in-Residence for Harbin Hall. Read more about Heather’s journey to and time at Georgetown below.

What drew you to ministry? What did your path to Georgetown look like?

I’m a practicing Catholic, but I wasn’t always. It was a friend’s invitation to a retreat toward the end of my first year of college that changed the trajectory of my life, so much so that I changed my major from journalism to religious studies in the middle of my junior year and ultimately opted for a career in ministry, which I’ve been doing ever since. What drew me to ministry was the desire to accompany adults, whatever age, as they discern the answers to their questions of belonging, faith, meaning, purpose, relationships, and vocation.

Before coming to Georgetown almost four years ago, I was a college campus minister in Cleveland and San Diego and a high school campus minister and parish minister here in the DC area. A few friends of mine have served as chaplains-in-residence over the years, and I’ve always been interested in the role. But it was only a few years ago, as I was making a career transition, that I felt I’d have the time to commit to this ministry.

What advice would you give to students who are trying to discern callings or next steps?

When people ask me how I would describe God, I often answer, “God is a God of surprises.” As a Catholic Christian, I think of “surprises” such as the Incarnation of Jesus or the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to his disciples on the road to Emmaus. In other words, God often meets us in ways we do not or would not expect. Twenty-plus years ago, when I was a non-practicing Catholic studying journalism at the nation’s best journalism school, I couldn’t have imagined how the next decades would unfold. So be open. Be open to what your heart or gut is telling you and to what other people are telling you. If people are saying to you, “I could totally see you doing this” or “You’d be great at that,” listen to them. They just might be right. And find a mentor, someone who can help you discern what these voices are saying.

What is your favorite thing about Georgetown?

I’m so grateful for all the opportunities Georgetown offers to help me grow in my understanding and living out of Ignatian spirituality. My spirituality has always been Ignatian, even before I knew anything about St. Ignatius or the Jesuits. For me, spirituality is about three things: awareness, which leads to gratitude, which leads to action. Awareness of God’s presence and activity in my life and in the world. Gratitude for the many gifts God has given me. And action: sharing my gifts with those in need of what I have to share.

What is your favorite part of being a CIR?

Meeting students, whether in person or through the email messages I send each week. We chaplains are a soft place to land amidst the turbulence of college life, and we speak from years of experience. We’re asking the same questions students are – those questions of “ultimate concern” – we’ve just been asking them longer.

How, if at all, do your identities impact your role? How do you engage so many diverse identities?

As a lay Catholic woman, I hope I’m modeling well for students that faith and life are not incompatible and that sacramental priesthood is not the only way to serve as a leader with impact in the Catholic Church.

What is one thing you wish students knew about you that they may not know at first?

Not so much wish they knew, but they may be surprised to know I don’t love chocolate or cookies, both of which are regular features of my open houses.