Louis Kolenda was living the high life as a creative director in downtown Manhattan when he had an epiphany over a bowl of room-service lobster bisque.

“Is this all there is?” he asked himself, a question that changed the trajectory of his life and career.

Former flight attendant Mollie Tobias chose a new path born of a tragedy, while stay-at-home mom Heidi Kuhn catapulted to the front of a global campaign for peace.

These local lay Catholics talk about their work, which by chance, providence or intent, springs from their faith and an understanding of their fundamental partnership with God.

Natural outgrowth of a Catholic upbringing

“I do think that a Catholic background prepares you for this type of work,” said Ed Barberini, chief of police for the City of San Mateo.

He and fellow Catholic officers Capt. Dave Peruzzaro, 50, and Lt. Todd Mefford, 52, agree that their faith and families gave them the foundation necessary to choose careers as public servants.

“I learned to treat people with compassion and respect no matter what situation they are in,” said Barberini, 52.

In a force of approximately 120 officers, about 40% are Catholic, according to Barberini.

The best and most effective cops, he said, are those that can “de-escalate” tense situations by knowing how to talk to people.

“You’re not always going to get that pat on the back,” Mefford said. The rewards of police work are a lot like the rewards of great faith. “The reward is at the end of your life.”


Using God-given gifts

“I could never tolerate anyone being in pain,” said Angela Testani, who retired in 2012 after a 40-year nursing career at Mt. Zion Hospital. As a child, she cried at the sight of Christ’s feet nailed to the cross.

The Holy Name of Jesus parishioner advocated for patients by suggesting pain-saving surgical protocols to administrators. She prayed with those who noticed the cross around her neck.

After attending a workshop for Catholics on spiritual gifts, she discovered her tender heart was a reflection of the charism of mercy.

“I’d been doing what God had called me to do all along, and it fit me like a glove,” she said. “When you are truly working with the Holy Spirit, people can sense that.”

With Nigerian priest Father Edward Inyanwachi, Testani co-founded Mother of Mercy Charitable Foundation in 2016 to help alleviate the health care, educational and humanitarian needs of the rural poor in southeastern Nigeria….

The above comes from a Nov. 21 story in Catholic San Francisco by Christina Gray.