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God has a purpose for you: Beth Knobbe, MDiv

CTU Alumna

March 11, 2013


The questions were simple yet profound: “Who am I at my core? Where can I best serve?”

At 29, Beth Knobbe was beginning to have an identity crisis. She had a satisfying, growing career in a global pension benefits firm. Rooted in the Catholic tradition of service, she volunteered as an after-school tutor for disadvantaged children, assisted with RCIA at Old St. Pat’s in Chicago, and was engaged in young adult ministry. A healthy balance, however, was elusive, and her purpose in life felt unclear.

“I hit the wall,” Beth said. Feeling like she was becoming two people, she wondered, “Am I Beth on the corporate track, or Beth on the ministry track?” Both felt authentic and enriching; both embraced values that mattered deeply to her.

On the one hand, a life of service and prayer was part of the fabric of her being. Beth had grown up on a farm in Nebraska. “We were a pretty typical Catholic family,” she said. “We weren’t overly pious, but we prayed before meals and bedtime.” The rural ethic was strong.  “You take care of one another and the church,” she said. After attending a Franciscan college which further expanded her experience of prayer and service, she chose to spend a year as a volunteer at Chicago’s Amate House, living simply in a faith-based community and serving as a teacher to inner-city children. It was a transformative experience.

On the other hand, Beth was a self-professed math geek with an interest in computers. When the year at Amate House ended, despite having loved the program, she was torn because teaching didn’t prove to be her calling.  So Beth began to explore a corporate path, taking a job in Chicago as a pension plan analyst.  This pursuit afforded her tremendous opportunities for professional growth, and she found great satisfaction in working hard and helping her clients.

Seven years into her corporate career, the questions about where she was headed persisted despite her professional success. After more than a year of discernment, Beth came to know that a life in ministry was a real possibility. Although she didn’t have a firm idea in what way her gifts could be used, she knew she would need further education.

Beth continued to work part time and enrolled at CTU because of its strong academics and faculty, global perspective, and the blending of lay and religious students. During her second year, Beth applied for a field practicum in campus ministry at Sheil Catholic Center at Northwestern University. The fit was perfect. “At the end of my year there, I said to my supervisor, ‘My work isn’t done,’” she remembers. He agreed and she stayed on, eventually accepting a full-time position.

Today, Beth remains happily in campus ministry at Sheil. She is also a speaker, author, and last summer was named by National Catholic Reporter as “one of 12 women under 40 making a difference in the Church.”  The identity crisis had vanished; balance was restored.

“In college,” Beth said, “I couldn’t imagine being in campus ministry. Now I can’t imagine not being in this ministry!” Her role at Sheil is to help young people see, “that God has a purpose for you; questioning is OK, and your passions are worth following,” she said. “After all, the greatest measure of our success will be, ‘Have we built up disciples?’ That will look different for each one of these students, as it does for each one of us.”

Read NCR's feature about Beth and other women under 40 who are making a difference in the Church.

Explore the various degree programs at CTU by clicking here.