In 2010, when Barbara Melosh first came to the Collegeville Institute, she didn’t consider her primary vocation to be writing. It’s not that she hadn’t written before; in fact, in her early career as a college professor, she published several academic books on topics like art and history. But that was before she “shocked everyone” by pursuing a second-career vocation to ministry. Ordained in the ELCA in 2005, Barbara did most of her writing for weekly sermons and church newsletters.
But a week at the Collegeville Institute changed that. She attended a writing workshop led by Richard Lischer, who was at work on his own spiritual memoir Stations of the Heart. Barbara credits it as “the spark” she needed to write her own pastoral memoir, which she developed at two additional Apart, and Yet A Part Collegeville Institute summer writing workshops. In 2018, Barbara published the memoir Loving and Leaving a Church: A Pastor’s Journey that she worked on at the Collegeville Institute.
“There is a seriousness that is accorded to writing at Collegeville,” she said. “I am a pastor and I still do pastoral work, but my primary vocation is writing, and the Collegeville Institute helped me to claim that.”
Barbara credits the Collegeville Institute for fostering generative relationships that have helped her create the structure, accountability, and support to continue writing. She hit it off with Jane Willan, with whom she shared a Collegeville Institute apartment, and they have become writing partners. Every two weeks, they exchange pages and talk on the phone for one hour. Barbara and Jane have also gone away on writing retreats for two summers where they write intensively together. Jane has since published two mysteries set in Wales featuring Sister Agatha, an Anglican nun.
“There is an energy that comes from being around other people who are writing, or struggling with writing, alongside you,” Barbara reflected.
In 2011, Barbara’s mother suffered a stroke. Barbara and her husband Gary Kulik cared for her until her death in 2012, an experience that prompted them to reflect on and revise their own will. At the time, they met with a gift planner who asked them a poignant question: “How have you been blessed?”
“It was a great question,” said Barbara. “It made us ask ourselves: what are some of the things that we really care about? Collegeville Institute was one of those.”
Barbara and Gary decided to include a legacy gift to the Collegeville Institute in their estate plan. They also made a commitment to not just make financial contributions, but to become actively involved in the organizations they support. In the last year, Barbara agreed to advise the Collegeville Institute on its feasibility study to raise capital funds that will restore and preserve the historic Breuer buildings for future generations to enjoy.
“When I first came to the Collegeville Institute, I was incredibly moved by the whole place,” she said. “I have never encountered an institution that was so coherent in its mission. I love the care that is given to every part of the environment. Everything is simple yet abundant.”