On Monday, Jennifer Phelps began her new role as transition officer for the Diocese of Indianapolis. A lawyer with nearly 20 years of experience, Phelps previously filled this position as a part-time consultant in 2018. In her new position, she will work with congregations searching for new clergy and priests and individuals discerning their next calls.
“During transitions, there’s such an opportunity to make a difference,” Phelps says. “It’s a time for the diocese to provide extra support. It’s a really exciting time to walk with a church and with individuals discerning their call, because it’s a time full of possibility.”
Phelps employs two primary guiding principles in transition ministry. First, she says, “I am present on behalf of the bishop offering the resources of the diocese to help. Second, I am there to love the people I’m working with — to walk with them and to support them.”
No stranger to times of transition, Phelps brings wisdom gained from her own life experience to her new role. “I have compassion for those dealing with the uncertainty of transition because I’ve had so much change in my own life over the last couple years,” she says.
“I had been trying to discern my own call for about 15 years or so and then I had the opportunity in 2018 to work on Bishop Jennifer’s staff, and I really loved it — I fell in love with the churches and the people I was working with. I was going through a divorce, I was going through a job change and then, in the middle of that year, they found a tumor on my pancreas.”
Following surgery, Phelps returned to practicing corporate law. “Honestly I took the safe choice,” she says, “but I had a very clear sense that I missed the opportunity to continue doing what I was so called to do in the church. So when I got a second chance to come back to the diocese on a permanent full-time basis, I couldn’t say no again. I had to say yes.”
“A big part of my role is going to be working with people who are discerning their call, and while everybody’s discernment story is unique, my own experience in returning to the diocese has felt absolutely like I have been answering a call,” she says. “It is a lay call. I am not ordained. I felt it, and it became undeniable. I had prayed about it for a long time and it got to a point where the voice was so loud, I couldn’t say no.”
Phelps can be reached at 317-926-5454 x-204 or via email at email@example.com.