Kenn Katona - A ‘Sparkplug’ for St. Clement’s, Rancho Cordova

Kenn Katona - A ‘Sparkplug’ for St. Clement’s, Rancho Cordova

By Sophie Smal, Communications Coordinator

Born into a Roman Catholic family, the new priest-in-charge at St. Clement’s, Rancho Cordova, said he initially didn’t like attending church.

“I made a deal with my parents that if I got confirmed, I could stop going to church, which I did. I didn’t darken the doors of a church until I was 19 years old, when I asked a girl out on a date. She said yes – but only if I’d go to church with her,’” said the Rev. Kenn Katona.

This became Katona’s first exposure to an Episcopal church, at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh, where Katona had moved.

“The liturgy was familiar, so I was comfortable with that, but the church just had an excitement and this feeling of being alive that I hadn’t experienced before,” Katona said.

A year later, Katona started travelling the country and doing short-term mission work in several cities. Additionally, Katona spent time in Mongolia, where he lived in a yurt on mountain with no running water or electricity for two months.

Although he started feeling called to the priesthood, Katona said, “I felt like God said ‘You need to let that go for now; you’re not ready for (the priesthood) yet.’ And so, I let it go.”

Katona came back to Pennsylvania where he spent four years as a youth minister at the Church of the Advent in Pittsburgh. He grew the youth group from three kids to 20, and then from 20 to one.

“I didn’t have a lot of training and didn’t know what I was doing, but I was just too stubborn to quit. But when you have only one kid, eventually the church lets you go,” Katona said.

Katona didn’t let this experience stop him; he became involved with a Methodist church for a year, then started working at St. David’s, the church he originally came to The Episcopal Church through. It was at St. David’s that Katona's commitment to see things through began to pay off, and the youth ministry began to thrive under Katona's leadership.

Eventually, Katona moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, where he became the director of family and youth ministries for an ELCA-Lutheran church. “While I was there, I always said that while I may be working at a Lutheran church, I’m always an Episcopalian at heart.”

“I was doing really well at the (ELCA-Lutheran) church, and eventually, the Episcopal Youth Diocesan Coordinator heard about me and asked me out to coffee,” Katona shared.

When the coordinator found out Katona was an Episcopalian, he urged Katona to meet the bishop of the Diocese of Arizona, Bishop Kirk Smith. “A week later, I’m in the bishop’s office and he’s asking me for my story and asking if I ever considered ordained ministry,” Katona said.

So, 10 years after he felt his first call to the priesthood, Katona started his discernment process. “I knew I was going to be a priest someday, so entering discernment process felt like coming home, in a way. But at the same time, I had to learn how to be comfortable in my own skin,” Katona said.

Throughout his period of discernment, Katona was mentored by several priests, including Nick Knisely, who at the time was the dean of the cathedral in Phoenix and is now the bishop of Rhode Island.

When he finally decided to join the priesthood, Katona attended Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS), where he developed a love of church history, especially the first seven Ecumenical Councils. During seminary, Katona also met his wife, Theresa.

Of his seminary experience, Katona said, “It was difficult; seminary was not easy for me. I’m much more the front-man, so put me out in front of the crowd, with the people. Being chained to my desk was difficult for me.”

“When I’d get papers back, all of my professors used to say, ‘Kenn, you’re writing too conversationally; you need to write more academically.’ (Writing conversationally) is bad for papers but turns out to be really good for preaching,” Katona laughed.

Despite the challenges, Katona’s time at VTS was incredibly valuable. One of his most notable experiences was coordinating and promoting a VTS rock concert, which at the time, was the largest event to take place on campus. Since Katona used to be in a rock band in his early 20s, singing and playing guitar, the concert was right up his alley.

“It felt different being the one to plan the show, as I’m used to being the front-man, especially being a musician,” Katona said. “In joining with an extremely capable team made of up of both professors and students, we were able to put together an incredible event. It was an experience that taught me a lot about working with a team, and that we are all capable of things we could have never imagined when the Holy Spirit leads us.”

Not long after seminary, Bishop Smith appointed Katona as the vicar of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Casa Grande. In his two and a half years there, the church really grew; pledging increased immensely and membership increased by about 40 percent.

When Katona’s wife received a job opportunity in Sacramento, the two left their home in Casa Grande, and Katona found his new parish at St. Clement’s.

“There’s a lot of work to do at St. Clement’s, but I’ve always viewed myself as a bit of a sparkplug, so I hope to energize, and be a conduit for the Holy Spirit to rejuvenate and to renew the parish,” Katona said.

The Rev. Kenn Katona’s first day at St. Clement’s, Rancho Cordova, was Oct. 1, 2017; he will be formally installed by Bishop Barry Beisner at St. Clement’s on Dec. 21, 2017.

2 comments (Add your own)

1. Debbi Honeycutt wrote:
I am a member of St.Clements and was also a member of the search committee and helped call Father Kenn to our church. St. Clement's has a new energy we haven't felt in a long time, the holy spirit is working in all of us. We are so blessed to have Father Kenn as our Priest in Charge and I know in my heart we're headed for bigger and better things in Rancho Cordova.

Thanks be to God,
Debbi Honeycutt

Tue, December 19, 2017 @ 6:15 PM

2. Donald Timothy Tribble wrote:
We are very blessed to have Fr. Kenn at St. Clement's and invite everyone for a visit.

Thu, December 21, 2017 @ 8:35 AM

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