SALT LAKE CITY — In a special Mass at the Cathedral of the Madeleine on Aug. 17, 70 women and men will be certified as lay ecclesial ministers. All of them have completed the four-year certification classes, 13 in the English program and 57 in the Spanish program, known as EMAUS II.
Among them will be Gail King, a St. Francis of Assisi Parish member who recently retired as the Asian Studies librarian at Brigham Young University.
“She’s a delight to work with,” said Julie Boerio-Goates said of King, with whom she worked both at the parish and at the university. “She’s quiet and unassuming, yet when she’s talking about her work in the Asian studies area, she just opens up.”
“I think one of her astonishing characteristics is great humility,” said Susan Northway, director of the Diocese of Salt Lake City Office of Religious Education. “She is an extremely talented person who sets a quiet example of being an effective Christian and minister.”
King was born and grew up in a small town in northeastern Colorado, where she attended public schools because there were no Catholic schools in the area. She studied at the University of Colorado, earning a bachelor’s degree in East Asian studies and Chinese. She said she was led to Asian studies after a college advisor suggested she study Chinese.
“The hand of God works in mysterious ways,” King said.
King went on to receive a master’s degree in Chinese literature from the University of Chicago. She then took a break from her studies to work as a bookmobile librarian for four years back in Colorado. But the world of Asian studies called to her.
“I loved it from the beginning; I never wanted to quit,” she said.
She returned to the University of Chicago, where she received a PhD. In October 1982, King came to Utah to take the job at BYU. Being a Catholic woman at the private university operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a good experience, she said.
“No one put pressure on me,” she said. “The people I worked with were really good people and the students were serious and hardworking.”
King retired from her position on May 1, but does not plan to leave the world of Asian studies behind anytime soon. She is completing a book about Candida Xu, a 17th-century Christian Chinese woman. She has been working on the book for 25 years.
At St. Francis of Assisi, King was named the parish’s 2019 Woman of the Year. She is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, teaches the kindergarten religious education class and plays the organ at Mass. She has been a member of the parish since 1982. She and her husband, Stan, have been married for 38 years, and they have two sons, David and Will.
King said she decided to become an LEM after seeing the program advertised in 2015.
“I started feeling a little nudge at the back of my mind and thought it could be the Holy Spirit,” she said.
Still, King was hesitant because she prefers to stay in the background and the advertisement suggested the diocese was looking for leaders. She met with Northway, who assured her that there are many ways of serving and leading, she said.
“The classes were so enlightening,” she said. “It gave me a stronger understanding of my faith, a deeper core of understanding that I can bring to whatever I do. … I feel very grateful to have been part of this program. I always wanted to love and serve God more and more with my life, in my daily actions, so I can be a better witness of Jesus and show Jesus to other people. This program helped me to do that better.”
King said going through the program with 12 other people was a powerful experience.
“It isn’t just one person going through an adult education program,” she said. “Rather, it is the whole group learning together about lay ministry in the Church, doctrine, prayer and service, responding to speakers and presentations, learning through doing and encouraging and helping each other. This group interaction and time shared together especially helped me grow in my understanding of lay ministry and in my own spiritual life.”
While discerning her service as a lay ecclesial minister, King has felt a leaning toward visiting the shut-ins in the community.
LEMs serve many functions in their parishes and in the diocese, depending on need, Northway said. Some have served as hospital chaplains, youth ministers, directors of religious education, in the diocesan offices, on the diocesan pastoral council, in leadership in the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women and the Utah Knights of Columbus, and in their parishes.
The application process is closed for the next English-speaking LEM class, which will begin this month, but those who are interested in finding out more about the program may call Northway at 801-328-8641 ext. 326. For information on the Spanish-speaking cohort, call Maria Cruz Gray at 801-328-8641 ext. 361.
WHAT: Lay Ecclesial Minister Certification Mass
WHEN: Saturday, Aug. 17, 11 a.m.
WHERE: Cathedral of the Madeleine, 209 E. South Temple, SLC
All in the diocese are welcome to attend.