Worship director hopes to engage young Catholics

Dr. Karen Shadle
Dr. Karen Shadle

By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer

Dr. Karen Shadle’s love of the liturgy began with a personal invitation in middle school.

Shadle, the new director of the Office of Worship, began playing the piano at Mass at St. Margaret Mary Church as a young teen under the guidance of then-music director Jane Pund.

Now as head of the worship office she aims to inspire other young Catholics who wish to be more involved in the liturgy.

The Office of Worship is responsible for providing formation and ongoing education for liturgical ministers, including extraordinary ministers of holy Communion, lectors and cantors. Shadle succeeds Judy Bullock, who retired at the end of 2015 after leading the office for 20 years.

Shadle, a native of Louisville, attended Our Lady of Lourdes Church and School. She graduated from Assumption High School and Centre College in Danville, Ky. At the University of North Carolina, she studied psalmology and earned master’s and doctoral degrees.

At a young age, she said, she realized she had a gift for music.

“It was easy for me and it wasn’t for a lot of people. It (playing the piano) was a way to give back to the church,” Shadle explained in an interview last week at the Maloney Center.

Prior to her current position, Shadle served as the assistant director of Catholic worship and campus ministry at Bellarmine University.

In her new position, Shadle said she aims to reach young Catholics, enhance people’s worship experience and provide greater access to resources and materials.

By interacting with young adults on a daily basis at Bellarmine, Shadle said she discovered the challenges young Catholics face and the gifts they bring to the church.

“I got an understanding of what it takes to invite young people into ministry,” she said. “It’s not just an invitation but also providing support, training and resources.”

Shadle said she believes young people have a thirst for knowledge and are attracted to the church’s ritual traditions.

“There is almost a renaissance of liturgy among young people. I’m seeing a renaissance of respect for traditions of the church and a desire to know more about them,” she said.

Shadle said she plans to draw on that expertise in her new position at the worship office to nurture young people.

“We are at a point where we’ll need (people in) leadership real soon. We can’t let this opportunity pass us by,” she said.

Her position at Bellarmine — which took her to parishes around the archdiocese as a music minister — also gave her the opportunity to see a wide diversity of worship styles.

“I saw that there is not one way,” she said.

Shadle said the liturgy needs first to follow the instructions provided by the church. Secondly, it needs to provide “a sense of transcendence.”

“Beyond that, there are so many ways to do that well,” she said.

For most Catholics, she said, the liturgy is the most frequent and prominent way to interact as a church.

“How well or how poor that experience is has a great impact on people’s faith lives,” she said.

And that impact on people’s faith lives, is something Shadle takes seriously.

“There is a sense of privilege that comes with the work I do,” she said, noting that’s what continues to attract her to her work.

Shadle said she approaches her new position as one of service.

“I’m young enough to remember my first job as a liturgist, planning my first (Easter) triduum,” she said. “I think about the resources or support that I wished I had known about to make the process smoother.”

In addition to encouraging young people to take leadership roles, Shadle said she plans to expand the accessibility of resources from the worship office, making more resources available online and using social media to reach a younger generation.

She is asking herself, “How can I provide resources so people feel capable and empowered in their ministry?” she said.

Shadle also praised the staff of the Office of Worship — Tammy Turner, program assistant, and Barry Mudd, liturgical consultant — for their knowledge and expertise.

She said she believes her journey to liturgical ministry was pretty typical.

“I had the musical gifts but not the training. I had to seek that out. I hope to bridge that gap for the next generation,” she said.

Shadle and her husband, Doug, have a son, Avery, and are parishioners of St. Agnes Church.

For more information about the Office of Worship, click here.

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