Dorm elevators are not typically seen as ideal locales for ministry. However, for the Walla Walla University new assistant chaplain intern, the Foreman Hall elevator is one of the many locations where the love of God can be shared through ministry.
Katie Palumbo graduated from WWU last year with the class of 2015 with a major in religion and a minor in psychology. The assistant chaplain internship is a brand new position that the Chaplain’s Office has been looking to fill for some time. Palumbo is its first occupant as of this school year and has recently confirmed that she will continue with this ministry into next school year.
“The position is designed to give me, or whoever occupies it, a well-rounded experience in all aspects of ministry,” Palumbo said. “My week typically reflects that—a mix between working closely with Campus Ministries leaders, the Chaplain’s Office in general, the girl’s dorms, Student Missions, and the University Church. I get to dabble in everything, it’s great.”
A multifaceted ministry
In addition to this wide array of responsibilities, Palumbo also mentors freshman, oversees the small groups and prayer ministries on campus, leads her own small group for women, makes time to pray and connect with staff and faculty, and coordinates Breaking Bread. “At the beginning of each quarter I spend a lot of time coordinating Breaking Bread—a program we have started between the University Church and the Chaplain’s Office to connect students and church members for food and fellowship,” Palumbo explained. This winter quarter, 90 students and 15 families are participating in Breaking Bread. Palumbo is in charge of signing people up, organizing participants into groups, insuring that connections are made, and providing discussion questions each week.
“If I’ve been able to make a person smile, give someone hope, or meet a need, that’s a good day,” Palumbo said about her ministry on campus. One of the ways she does this is by getting out into the thick of the student body. Once a week, Palumbo and women’s dorm chaplain Shintell Izquierdo ride the Foreman Hall elevator and wander the halls of Conard. “We always come stocked with candy or food, of course,” Palumbo said. “Our women’s dorm chaplain, Shintell, is the mastermind behind the project.” An emphasis of Palumbo’s ministry on campus has always been to reach out “more intentionally to the women of WWU.”
Also once a week, Palumbo teams up with campus chaplain Paddy McCoy and chaplain for missions and discipleship Tommy Poole for what they call Mobile Chaplains. “We try and hit one highly trafficked area two hours a week to talk to students, hand out candy and baked goods, and pray,” Palumbo said about the creative outreach project.
Answering an unexpected call
As content as Palumbo is now with her current position as assistant chaplain intern, this is hardly where she would have imagined herself a few years ago. During the first half of her time at WWU, Palumbo was not at all interested in pursuing ministry professionally. “I had always ruled out being a pastor or a chaplain,” Palumbo said looking back. “What changed my mind was serving as a student missionary in Kenya during my junior year, where I worked as an elementary teacher. After spending a year at a 1st through 12th grade school, I realized that I loved working with people on an individual basis and ministering in a campus setting. It’s a total God thing that I’m where I am today.”
When Palumbo returned from Kenya, she changed her major and began working for the Chaplain’s Office and the Associated Students of Walla Walla University spiritual team. “I fell in love with the theology department, the content of my classes, and the professors who fully supported me as a woman in ministry,” Palumbo said of her studies as a religion major. “I chose to pursue chaplaincy as a career partly because of the diversity of the daily routine. Connecting with people on a meaningful level and having the opportunity to journey with people as a job is a huge blessing, especially on a campus like ours that I’ve grown to love over the past six years.” Though she hopes to continue doing campus chaplaincy, Palumbo also hopes to one day obtain a master’s degree in social work and youth ministry.
“I’m super blessed to be spending my first year out of college learning from some of the best in the business,” Palumbo said of her mentors, Paddy McCoy, Tommy Poole, and student missions coordinator Jeanne Vories. “I’ve learned a lot since starting in August. I think your first year in any new job after college is a little bit of trial and error. I’m learning to dream and think big picture, see past immediate challenges, and envision possibilities. I think I’m learning that learning is okay. Lucky for me, I get to learn here.”
Posted Feb. 24, 2016