A former Anglican priest, Kathy Orr-Nimmo, has been appointed lay pastoral leader in Wellington Central which comprises St Mary of the Angels, St Josephs, Mt Victoria and St Bernards, Brooklyn, where Kathy will be based.
As an Anglican priest (one of the first two women to be ordained by the Bishop of Nelson in 1987), Kathy spent some time working in a specialist ministry known as Intentional Interim Ministry developed in the United States. This model of ministry provided for a person to go into a parish for a period to help parishioners work through significant change.
Kathy also brings significant experience in spiritual direction, enhanced by three months intensive study of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre in Guelph, Canada, in 2003.
Two years earlier, she had done the Spiritual Exercises (a 30-day retreat) at Guelph. At the end of this, her spiritual director challenged her about her focus on Catholic rather than Anglican spirituality.
As a result of this, she subsequently accepted an invitation to teach a course in Anglican Studies in New Zealand, only to find that this resulted in her developing fundamental doubts about her future as an Anglican. She admits this was not easy with her husband still working in the Anglican Church. (David Nimmo is currently vicar of Johnsonville.)
In the late 1980s, Kathy worked alongside her husband in Havelock, Marlborough, and also served as area coordinator for industrial chaplaincy in Marlborough. In 1990, she and David and their two young children moved to the Masterton South Anglican parish.
In 1995 the family moved to Wellington, where Kathy became extensively involved in research and writing for the Waitangi Tribunal, as well as continuing her involvement in ministry. While pondering a change in faith direction, Kathy was working with the Anglican Chinese Mission in Wellington—a position she enjoyed very much.
An important area of Kathy’s pastoral experience has been raising two children while continuing to work, though she says much of her pastoral work while the boys were pre-schoolers was done in the evenings when they were fast asleep.
In 1983 Kathy gained a PhD in modern history from Oxford University with a focus on the 19th century Church of England. She also has first class honours degrees in economics and theology.
At times in her Anglican priesthood, Kathy had found that some people had difficulty with her being intelligent, female and the mother of young children. As a result she says she became almost too diligent in exercising her priestly ministry. While doing the Ignatian exercises at Guelph in 2001, Kathy was challenged to think about what might be distracting her from God.
‘I think I realised that to some extent exercising my priestly ministry had almost turned into an idol. I’d put so much energy into trying to work out these complexities.’
In the spirit of the exercises, Kathy prayed that the exercise of her priestly ministry be taken away.
‘After 24 hours of feeling very uncomfortable about this, but having prayed this prayer, my spiritual director told me I’d better move on to the next bit of the retreat. Retrospectively this was a very dangerous prayer.’
Kathy came out of the retreat knowing that it is God that must be one’s primary focus and the best of things can distract from a focus on God.
A change of orientation
After ‘thousands of pages of reading and hundreds of hours of praying’, Kathy realised that to maintain her theological integrity she needed to move into Catholicism.
Kathy sees her personal vocation as experiencing and understanding the love of God more deeply and helping others to do so, too. This has informed her work as a spiritual director and is highly relevant to her work in the pastoral area.
Kathy became a Catholic in 2003 and has been involved in various aspects of parish life at St Mary of the Angels including being a member of the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) team since 2004.
Kathy is particularly interested in working collaboratively in the pastoral area team with the parish priest at Mt Victoria and the pastoral team at St Mary of the Angels, attempting to model collaborative ministry for parishioners of the three parishes—‘encouraging everybody to work out what their gifts are and to work together hopefully to a greater degree than in the past.’
‘With RCIA I’ve had a really good experience of working collaboratively with the priest who’s been on the team and this has encouraged me to do this. It has worked in a way that I have found really energising.’