Susan Northway honored at retirement luncheon

Friday, Mar. 29, 2024
Susan Northway honored at retirement luncheon + Enlarge
Susan Northway is shown with her husband, Ernie, during a retirement luncheon at the diocesan Pastoral Center.
By Linda Petersen
Intermountain Catholic

SALT LAKE CITY — Susan Northway, former director of the Office of Faith Formation and longtime teacher at several diocesan schools, was honored at a retirement luncheon at the Pastoral Center on March 19.

Northway, who is originally from Chicago, came to Utah in 1976 after an unexpected call inviting her to teach at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School in Holladay. At the time Northway and her husband, Ernie, were music teachers at a public high school in Big Piney, Wyo. but were looking for a change.

At St. Vincent de Paul School, Northway taught eighth grade and music for several years, then took a year off when her second child was born. She continued to teach music at St. Vincent’s part-time for several years. Then, in 1986, she joined Judge Memorial Catholic High School in Salt Lake City as a fulltime music teacher, a position she held for a decade.  During her final two years at Judge, as a member of the religion department, she completed a bachelor’s degree in theology. In 1999 she was one of the teachers at Juan Diego CHS in Draper when it opened; she taught theology there for five years.

In 2003, with almost 25 years in education in the diocese, Northway was considering retirement when the Most Rev. George H. Niederauer, eighth Bishop of Salt Lake City, asked her to serve as the director of the diocesan Office of Faith Formation.

“Out of faith I really thought, ‘Well this is meant to be,’” Northway said. “I didn’t apply for it; it was a call.”

During the almost 19 years she served in that position, Northway helped build the diocesan lay ecclesial minister formation program from scratch.

“The process was such a joyful thing, and to see so many of those leaders in service now in our diocese, helping in parishes, are wonderful things to contemplate,” she said.

Northway also spoke warmly of the trust and the support she received from diocesan leaders. “It is a very joyful memory for me; also seeing the delight in laity as they learned more and gained confidence in their own ministries.”

The mother of three, grandmother of 12 and great-grandmother of three, Northway, who is almost 80, decided to retire to spend more time with her family.

Since her official retirement date of Jan. 3, she has been enjoying life, but has not been idle. With time to pursue her love of drawing, she has illustrated an alphabet book about a family escaping from Ukraine for her daughter Mary Margaret’s preschool class.

“I’ve been busy doing other kinds of things,” she said. “Change is good. There’s a great happiness in each stage of life if a person is open to that.”

Northway will remain a member of the board of directors for the Congar Institute, an initiative of the Southern Dominican Province that provides many resources for formation in the diocese. She also will continue as a board member for the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable.

“It’s a very inspiring group of leaders; they’re good friends and colleagues now,” she said of the latter group.

At the March 19 luncheon, several diocesan leaders spoke of Northway’s many contributions during her career.

Deacon George Reade, chancellor, served alongside Northway and her husband at St. Ambrose Parish for close to 20 years. “The support I had and what they contributed to St. Ambrose, all the wonderful gifts that Susan had, were very much on display at St. Ambrose,” he said.

Of working with Northway at the Pastoral Center, the deacon said, “She is  just so patient, so understanding and brings out the best in you.”

Describing Northway as “a co-worker in the vineyard of the Lord,” Bishop Oscar A. Solis said, “Susan is one of those who epitomizes what it means to be a lay ecclesial minister, a person involved in the mission of the Church.”

Monsignor J. Terrence Fitzgerald, vicar general emeritus, said he learned many things from Northway when he was principal at Judge Memorial CHS. “This has carried over to other ministries here at the Pastoral Center. Susan has tremendous patience; she doesn’t have to see the results today. She can plant seeds and is very at home if the seeds grow later on; she doesn’t have to take the credit.”

Northway lent a lot of her creativity and effort to the diocese’s LEM program, said Monsignor Colin F. Bircumshaw, vicar general. “She was someone who didn’t just talk about ongoing formation or lifelong catechesis; that was her whole life.”

Vicar for Clergy Father Kenneth Vialpando met Northway in 1991, and “since that time I have always been in awe of the ministries that you have provided and the way that you interacted with the administrators of Judge High School, the parents, the staff and the students, not to mention the ways you’ve interacted with Bishop Oscar and the staff and the lay leaders,” he told her. “It goes without saying that you’ve lived up to your name … you have pointed us north.”

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