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Like everyone else whose life has been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, LeAnn Korsmeyer has been longing for "normal."

She recognized long ago 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," said Korsmeyer, the Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City'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."

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 underway — and right before the pandemic threw everything into sudden, yet surprisingly fruitful turmoil.

"Who would have thought?" Korsmeyer said. "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.

"This is what we've been training for all of our lives," Korsmeyer said. "We've been sent out on mission in ways we never anticipated."

She's been amazed at people's willingness 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.

Korsmeyer noted 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."

Bishop W. Shawn McKnight originally hired Korsmeyer last July to help facilitate the Church's ministry to women of the diocese.

"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," Korsmeyer said. "It is also a great opportunity to form women into ministries that specifically address women's spiritual needs."

She noted while women's ministry is important, it's 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."

Korsmeyer had been serving for 12 years as director of religious education at St. Stanislaus Catholic Church 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 Wegman since the Rev. 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,'" Korsmeyer recalled. "Fr. Meystrik said, 'There's someone you need to meet.'"

Wegman quickly became her mentor, helping her discern a calling to a more active role in the church.

That friendship deepened while 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," 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."

As a member of the bishop'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.

Toward that end, 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 said 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.

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' 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."

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