Former Newman Center assistant joins Carmelite order

By | June 9, 2010

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Jennifer Johns, second from left, is pictured at her “See You in the Eucharist Sendoff,” which took place May 16. Johns entered the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of the Order of Our Blessed Lady of Mount Carmel on May 31. (Submitted photo | For The Compass)

The sendoff, coined from a popular St. Thérèse of Lisieux greeting, marked the bittersweet celebration of Johns’ entering the community of Discalced Carmelite Nuns of the Order of Our Blessed Lady of Mount Carmel. On May 31, she entered the cloistered Carmelite Monastery of the Holy Name of Jesus, located in Denmark. Johns, 27, will be the third youngest member there.

“If you’re open to what God wants to do in your life, it (responding) is nothing big. It’s nothing extravagant,” said Johns. “It’s what God created me for. He calls you to it, and the grace follows. Only with and through him the impossible is possible.”

“I will miss her greatly, but it’s a great thing to know that she is praying for us,” said Sam Wood, campus minister at UW-Oshkosh’s Newman Center, where Johns served as an administrative assistant. “She was a key person. She genuinely loved each (student), one at a time.”

Johns, a 2004 graduate from UW-Oshkosh, returned this past year to serve at the center that deepened her faith years earlier. “That’s where my vocation was fostered,” Johns said.

Even in those days as a student, according to Johns, there was something about responding to God’s invitation that attracted her. A major instrument in this revelation was Fr. Bob Kollath, the former chaplain at UW-Oshkosh.

“He was the first priest I met that fully disposed himself,” said Johns. “He went sledding, stayed up late and watched movies with us — I had never met a priest like that before.”

At the May sendoff, Johns told the story that in 2002, the previous campus minister at UW-Oshkosh posed the question, “We have our priest (Fr. Kollath), now who’s going to be our sister?” The answer was a no-brainer, according to Johns. Still, God had much in store for her as he revealed himself to her in a very unique and personal relationship.

“I knew there was something more in my life,” Johns said. “I knew God created me for more than the stereotypical life that my friends were beginning to live, not that that was wrong or bad, but I felt there’s got to be something more.”

“Jenny Johns is the most important thing that happened to CYE, next to the Holy Spirit,” said Patrick McConnell, a friend of Johns who served with her as the original two-person staff of CYE in the summer of 2006. “She had a beautiful insight into ministry with young people, but more importantly insight on the importance of prayer, and remembering Christ’s presence.”

A pivotal period of time in this discernment took place while on CYE’s walking pilgrimage from Oshkosh to Holy Hill, the National Shrine to Our Lady Help of Christians. She travelled with Fr. Mann, Fr. Joel Sember and 25 other young adults.

“As I prepared myself physically by walking a few miles every day, I thought it was only necessary to prepare my heart spiritually for the transformation my soul was about to undertake.” Johns said. “Thirty-four days before the feast of the Visitation of Our Lady to her cousin Elizabeth, I began the preparation for total consecration to Mary according to St. Louis Marie de Montfort.”

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