The Rev’d Vanessa Cato was born in the UK in a seaside town where she lived, worked and worshiped for forty years. A member of the Church of England (Episcopalian) she was very active in her church from her mid-teens, assisting in Sunday School and running Church Brownie and Girl Scout troops for over 20 years. She trained as a schoolteacher and taught for a number of years in the state school system, where she encountered many issues for children related to poverty and inadequate housing.
Finally responding to a call from God, which she had felt since her early teens, Vanessa’s vocation to the ordained ministry was recognized by the Church in her late 30s. After seminary training, she became one of the first women in the Church of England to be ordained priest in 1994. She served initially as an assistant priest, and then from 1997 as the Rector of several churches.
Her community roles in these parishes included hospital chaplaincy, trusteeship of Alms Housing and other charitable bodies assisting the poor, and membership of three Church School Governing Boards, including four years on one as Chair of Governors. Her last calling in England was not only to the role of Parish Priest, but also the role of Diocesan Children’s Work Adviser, offering training, advice and assistance to over 300 churches in their work with children and families.
Vanessa is the mother of two grown-up sons who both live in the USA with their American wives and children. Her children and grandchildren were a key reason for Vanessa to come to America herself. She was delighted to be called to serve as Rector at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Ogden. Now in her fifth year, she continues to be stimulated by the joys and challenges of ministry, as well as enjoying the warmth and friendliness of the local people.
Among the many ministries Vanessa supports and encourages at Good Shepherd are those which are related to her particular passions of giving children and young people the best opportunities to thrive and be nurtured in a loving, caring environment, and for providing assistance to those who are currently struggling in life, especially families. These include the support and encouragement of outreach ministries, such as the Shepherd’s Fold linen pantry, which supplies bedding and towels to those who cannot afford such “luxuries”, the Shepherd’s Bowl, which provides free lunch to all comers on Wednesdays, Episcopal Church Women care ministries, and a small clergy pantry, which particularly helps some of our Latino families. The church also has strong links with the Lantern House Homeless shelter.
Vanessa supports Youth Impact in Ogden (a project that provides a superb after school support program to disadvantaged children), and helps to run an Outreach Girl Scout Troop there, offering an opportunity those girls may not otherwise have. Vanessa is also an active member of the Ogden Rotary Club, which supports a number of children and family-related charitable projects.
Having heard about Family Promise from fellow clergy serving in Salt Lake, Vanessa was very excited to read that an Ogden Family Promise project was being proposed. She and members of Good Shepherd have been involved since the first meetings, and enthusiastically promoted Family Promise at Good Shepherd. A unanimous vote by the church Vestry (Council) to be a host church was a marvelous result. She and her church members, including the Latino congregation, eagerly await the day they can welcome the first families as Family Promise guests at Good Shepherd. Being a Trustee of Ogden Family Promise is another opportunity for Vanessa to exercise her passion for the nurture of children and support of their families.