Ordained Priest 2013 

Corene Besetzny

Certificate Franciscan Spirituality Program

 Master of Arts Women’s Studies: Religion, Theology, and Ministry

Master of Science Anthropology

Master of Science Teaching

My journey toward priesthood has been a life-long one. Born and raised in Algona, IA, I attended St. Cecelia. Grade School and Garrigan Catholic High School.

The process of becoming a priest took me about five years, but my decades-long involvement with the church dates back to my childhood. Raised a Catholic, one of my earliest memories is dressing up as a nun for Halloween. After graduating from a Catholic high school in Iowa, one of the sisters asked me if I had considered becoming a nun for real, which surprised me. I said no, not at all. Instead I spent the next 40 years volunteering for church programs and the Peace Corps.

After our marriage, I entered the Peace Corps in Liberia, West Africa with my then husband and my assignment took place at a government school teaching Grades 1-6 while setting up a library at Suehn Mission. I earned a Masters of Science in Teaching (K-9th ) from Drake University in Des Moines, IA, following this experience.

While raising a family of three adopted children, two from Korea and one from Honduras, I was active in parish ministry for many years (1979-2003) at St. Cecilia Church in Ames, IA, in the areas of marriage preparation, family life, RCIA, and social justice. During this time, I completed a Masters of Science in Anthropology, while being an active Lay Franciscan.

After an annulment of my first marriage, I was married in 1995, to my husband Kenneth, a pastoral minister, and together we worked at Red Wing’s St. Joseph Catholic Church and Fairview Seminary Home.

In the early 2000s, at the recommendation of long time friend and first RCWP member in the midwest, Regina Nicolosi, I enrolled at United Theological Seminary in New Brighton, Minn. I graduated with a Masters of Arts in women’s studies focusing on religion, theology and ministry. It was around that time that I started to feel “the bug” pulling me toward priesthood, but I chose not to act on the urge over fears it would jeopardize my husband’s career with the church. That is when life intervened.

We had relocated to Kansas City late in the 2000’s, after Kenneth got a new job. But the move was not a good fit, and so we returned to Red Wing after about a year. A few months after returning, Kenneth was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer. He died from the disease 11 months later. The loss of my husband was devastating, but at the same time it opened the door for me to move ahead with becoming a priest. I probably wouldn’t have done it otherwise. I didn’t want it to affect his work, because that was his calling. It just wouldn’t have felt right. Following my husband’s death, I took a job at Red Wing Health Center while continuing my studies.

After this, I completed a two-year Spiritual Direction Preparation Program from the Franciscan Spirituality Center in La Crosse, WI. All these experiences paved the way toward priesthood.

My longtime friend and fellow Red Wing resident Regina Nicolosi was involved with RCWP and I became involved and applied because of her. I don’t like to think of myself as a rebel. I’m one of those people who does things quietly on the sideline. I just go about and do my work. My beliefs inspired me to promote reform from within the Catholic Church instead of converting to a denomination that allows women to be priests. We must become an all-inclusive church where all are welcome and the ministries are open to all people. That’s what we’re called to do because that’s what Jesus was about, in my opinion.

I was afraid to tell my family. My brother and sister are both strong Catholics. I was afraid of how they were going to respond. After finding the courage to reveal my plans, I was relieved to find support. I just burst into tears. My brother told me, ‘I know you’re not doing this for yourself; you’re doing it for our grandchildren.’” That’s the way I see it. It’s about making a just church for the future.

I was ordained a deacon in Indianapolis, IN on April 15, 2012. As a deacon I helped preside over a traveling Mass of about twenty people that rotated among attendees’ homes, and I continued working at Red Wing Health Center. On June 23, 2013 I was ordained by my friend and now Bishop, Regina Nicolosi. I now pastor a House Church Community the third Sunday of each month in members’ homes. During the summer we gather outdoors for Garden Masses. In addition, I preside for worship at Bay View Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

Change takes time. Like all controversial subjects, there are those who are willing to accept it and others who probably never will. But change is inevitable. It’s a truth of life.

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