British priest takes Ogden assignment

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 10:44 AM

OGDEN — The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd will welcome a new priest later this month.

Joining the church as rector is the Rev. Vanessa G. Cato.

She will arrive from St. Leonard’s Sandridge in St. Albans, England.

Cato, who has two sons and three grandchildren, was born and grew up in Clacton-on-Sea, a seaside town on the East Coast of England.

The new priest is a 1994 graduate of Theological College in Cambridge.

She was given the priesthood that year, the first year that women could become priests in the Church of England.

“It was a very exciting time but very tough being among the first,” she wrote in her biography.

She went on to serve a hospital chaplaincy and was involved in a local primary school for children ages 5 to 11.

In 1997, she was appointed rector of three ancient, semi-rural parishes. She said they all had a church primary school in which she was heavily involved, and she also continued to serve as a hospital chaplain.

She wrote that while she was there, all three parishes grew in numbers, in work with children and families and in pastoral outreach. Each church and school also undertook at least one major building project in that time.

“It was my passion for developing children’s work in these parishes which led to me joining the Diocesan Children’s Committee and becoming a Church Schools’ inspector,” she wrote.

Leaving the post in Albans, she said, was a natural progression, combining her core instinct to be a parish priest with her desire to help other parishes to grow through their work with children and families.

She served as both a parish priest and a Diocesan adviser in children’s work at St. Albans Diocese in Hertfordshire, which she describes as another ancient, semi-rural parish.

It is 22 miles north of central London.

“With both my sons now living abroad, it could have been very lonely, but I have had a very good time with the people of St. Leondard’s Sandridge,” she wrote.

“Together, we have seen spiritual and numerical growth, especially through our youth and children’s work, but also through our pastoral outreach, and I have made good friends here.”

She wrote that her diocesan work was exciting too, and has included the organization and leading of training and two major children’s events in the cathedral.

Cato said she doesn’t have much spare time but when she does, she enjoys reading, walking, gardening and a number of handicrafts.

“Until a few years ago, I was always owned by a dog (or two!),” she wrote. “I hope to get another one for company and to keep me trim when I’m properly settled in Ogden.”

Cato wrote that one exciting aspect of her new position is being closer to her sons, who are married to American women.

They live in Montana and Florida.

“Seeing my grandchildren more often will be an added bonus to living in the U.S.,” she wrote.

Cato said she did not grow up in a church-going family, but they were all baptized and she had many spiritual influences in her life.

“Seeking a spiritual home in my teens, I found the local Anglo-Catholic Church, with all its ritual, music, colour and incense, and a very friendly youth group,” she wrote in her biography. “I was confirmed and became an active member of that church for 26 years, which included running the church’s Girl Guides (Girl Scouts).

Cato wrote that at 16, she had a strong sense of calling to the priesthood but she thought she must be mistaken because women couldn’t become priests.

Women still are not allowed to be priests in the Anglo-Catholic Church.

But Cato said several priests over the years recognized that she had a vocation to some ministry in the church.

“They were supportive and helpful as far as their views would allow and also helped to deepen and strengthen my faith,” she wrote.

She became a school teacher, got married and had her two sons.

After 14 years, she wrote, her marriage sadly ended in divorce.

She wrote that it was her underlying sense of vocation that then led her to Theological College in Cambridge.

The Rev. Nancy Groshart, a deacon at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, said members there are overjoyed to have Cato join them. They’ve had to wait an extended period of time without a priest, as Cato had problems getting her visa.

Originally, the church announced that Cato would be coming in November.

“It’s been a long and frustrating process,” Groshart said, referring to obtaining her new priest’s visa.

“The good news arrived Dec. 22, which was very good, because Vanessa had to be out of the rectory by the end of January,” she said. “She would have been out of a job and out of a home.”

The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd is at 2374 Grant Ave. in Ogden. For information, call 801-392-8168.

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