Hi! My name is Catherine Holcombe. I am from Tacoma Washington where I was Jesuit born and bred through St. Leo’s Parish and Bellarmine Preparatory High School. I went to Scripps College for Women earning my B.A. in American Studies. My undergraduate study abroad experience in Chile was one of the most challenging and impactful experiences of my life. When I joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps after undergrad. I learned the phrase “ruined for life,” but I think my first real “ruining” took place in Valparaiso Chile, in which my world was turned upside down, not only because I travelled across hemispheres and it was summer at Christmastime. There, I was met with testimonies of dictatorship, torture, death and witnessed the harming effects of neoliberalism, feeeling strongly the reality of inequality and death in our world. Yet, I also felt the beauty of human resilience and God’s enduring presence despite life’s fragility and unfairness. This began a conversion process toward a real relationship with God, which was nurtured by two years of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps: one in San Jose serving predominantly latino immigrant families through an after school enrichment program, and a second in New York City working for a nonprofit advocating for the people of Washington Heights in various ways. The latino community’s faith is something that continues to inspire me in my faith, though I have not been professionally involved in this arena for a few years! I currently live with an amazing woman who hails from Mexico and we often say the rosary together in Spanish over the phone with her family in the evenings.
I graduated with my M.Div from the Jesuit School of Theology in 2019 and am incredibly grateful for the experience to enliven my faith and understand the wonders and challenges of our Church and our world. I developed a love for the Word of God at the J.S.T. and had a couple surprisingly powerful experiences of preaching there (In short, I didn’t expect the Spirit to move in the way that it did). I also learned a ton there through a partnership God placed me in, with my roommate who developed a neurological disability throughout our studies. Walking with her to navigate this disability, supported by our community, was a blessed and humbling challenge in learning solidarity and compassionate support.
I just finished my first year as a teacher of Christian Scriptures & Church History / Ethics & Social Justice at Salesian College Preparatory, in which I had the joy of working with students of many different backgrounds and walks of life in Richmond, CA. This venture was short lived due to budget cuts, and I was unfortunately informed this Holy Week that I could not return. However, this brought me into a “liminal space” that was very rich and made me reflect on my calling. I went on many walks, which is my favorite way to pray. I was brought back to the tomb of Jesus which I had the privilege to preach outside of, but not the privilege to speak inside of as planned (a story perhaps for another post). I wondered what plans God had for me. Turns out, in my next chapter, I will continue to teach basically the same subjects at a high school in Alameda. Additionally, I have facilitated Confirmation Prep for the past few years. First at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Oakland, and for the last two years at Corpus Christi Church in Piedmont. I am sustained in my work with high schoolers by helping students connect to their consciences, listen to God through Scripture and prayer, and helping them to know their worth as children of God. I also spiritually direct on occasion.
a. I enter this workshop praying for the intentions of listening and fortitude. I want to bring honesty, love and passion into this space. I want to risk bringing the complexities and messiness of my own thoughts and beliefs into this space in hopes that the Holy Spirit can air them out. To be honest, I do not consider myself much of an “activist” so being a part of collective work to “scheme” will stretch me but I am looking forward to the encouragement and challenge to explore how I am best suited to act prayerfully and genuinely to follow my/our call.
b. I have asked Saint Teresa and Saint Ignatius to be with me on this journey. I ask for the gift of discernment, and interior listening that might result in constructive action.