“God looked at me and said, ‘This is your next yes. This is your next step, and I need you to trust me,’” said Jenny Haug, as she reflected on her new role as the assistant director of catechesis for the Diocese of Nashville’s Office of Faith Formation, which she started Monday, Nov. 29.
Haug is a native of Nashville. She grew up in St. Ignatius of Antioch Church and graduated from Pope John Paul II Preparatory School in 2009, which is where her love of studying theology began.
During high school religion class, “I fell in love with the faith. I wasn’t catechized very well growing up,” even as a cradle Catholic, Haug said. “High school was really my first exposure to it, and I fell in love with it and just wanted to learn more.”
After high school, Haug studied theology at Aquinas College in Nashville, receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in 2013, and then went on to study theology at St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, Indiana, receiving her Master of Arts degree in 2015.
“In college, I started to fall in love with educating the young church mainly because I never want someone in the young church to be in the position I was in of not knowing who they are as a Catholic,” Haug said.
Following graduation, she worked in youth ministry for three years at St. Rose of Lima Church in Murfreesboro. Then, upon moving to Chattanooga, Haug served the church in several capacities including teaching middle school religion for a year at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Chattanooga, and then, most recently, serving as ecclesiastical notary with the Tribunal of the Diocese of Knoxville.
But when her son, Jeremiah, was born five months ago, she had made the decision to be a stay-at-home mom.
“I thought that was what God was calling me to do,” she said.
But God had other plans.
“I know a lot of people in this diocese, and I had some youth ministers and (directors of religious education) reach out to me and say, ‘Hey, I know this would be quite a move for you, but would you at least be interested in applying?’” Haug recalled. “I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to apply.’
“I applied, I interviewed and within a week God put all the pieces together including childcare for my son, making sure my husband could work remotely and us finding a house,” she said. “So far, everything has fallen into place beautifully.”
In this new role, Haug will primarily be responsible for working with directors of religious education, RCIA instructors, catechists and religious education programs at the parish and diocesan levels. That includes the diocesan catechetical conference and other events.
“We’re very excited to have her with us. Her educational background … coupled with her previous experience working with youth ministry and working with the Tribunal in Knoxville, those things especially for this particular role is really great because she has insight for both working within a parish and at the diocesan level,” said Dr. Brad Peper, director of the Office of Faith Formation. “Her role, too, also encompasses a lot of things where it’s very beneficial to know canon law and how canon law operates, so, she is the perfect fit for this particular position.”
Haug said she has high hopes for the future of the Office of Faith Formation.
“Within this role, I would hope that the parishes throughout the diocese see our office less as a formal office and more as a personal ministry to help them thrive and grow, to see that we are human beings striving for the same goal: to form the human person,” Haug said. “I hope that they feel comfortable enough to reach out to us and that we do the exact same and give them the outreach that they need regardless if they are hours away or right in our backyard.
“I want them to know that they are part of the diocese and that they matter, and their ministry matters,” she added. “The Catholic Pastoral Center here is definitely a family. I already feel welcome, and I’m looking forward to getting to know DREs, youth ministers and anyone within ministry on this level.”
No matter what the new role brings, however, Haug’s constant throughout her faith journey has remained the same: the Eucharist.
“It is the source and summit of my identity. If I need anything, regardless of what I’m going through, I always go back to the Eucharist,” she said. “It is what keeps me Catholic and keeps me grounded in ministry, as a mom, as a wife, and definitely as a Catholic.”
Jenny and her husband James, and their 5-month-old son Jeremiah currently live in Lebanon and attend St. John Vianney Church in Gallatin.