Before she became the pastor at Faith Lutheran Church in South Toledo, Cindy Getzinger worked as a paralegal for 25 years.
“Different events happened, and the attorney I was with retired,” Getzinger recalled. “God was calling me into the ministry and I pursued it. It took me five years to do seminary. Usually it’s four. I started out at Winebrenner Seminary in Findlay. I did the slow-boat road.”
Eighteen years ago, Cindy Hansen was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease that involves ongoing inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.
“That was truly the reason I was able to go back to school,” Hansen said. “I had lost my job because of my illness. I went back to the University of Toledo and got my degree in social work, and I entered the seminary the following summer, in 2004.”
Cindy Ritter calls herself a “second career person.”
“I’m a radiological technologist – I do CT scans at Toledo Hospital – and this is my 30th year,” she said. “Originally, I was extremely attracted to working with patients in another way, like a hospital chaplain. I wanted to spend time with patients more in a spiritual way than a medical way.”
Jaci Tiell, 28, a 1999 Clay graduate, felt her calling back in high school.
“God was calling me into the ministry,” she said, “but I never took it really far. I thought about it, but I just pushed it back and got married and bought a house and did all those things.
“I started working and four years later, I thought this isn’t where I wanted to be forever – in social work, so I thought, ‘OK, I better figure out what I’m going to do,’” Tiell said.
Larry Oberdorf Jr., 40, admits he didn’t have the most exciting – or fulfilling – job in the world for more than a decade.
“I worked as a bank teller — they call them customer service representatives – for 12 years,” he said.
What do Getzinger, Hansen, Ritter, Tiell and Oberdorf all have in common? They are all members of St. Mark Lutheran Church, located on Woodville Road in Toledo. All five have gone into the ministry, and all five attended or are still attending Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Bexley, Ohio, near Capital University.
“I think God’s hand has been in all of this,” Hansen said. “A lot of this is the way He’s used people in the church. The people in St. Mark and the pastors over the years have always been supportive. Pastor Baumann, our former pastor, was like a mentor for me.
“When I first decided to go to school and thought I wanted to go to seminary, and later on when I returned and was feeling my calling again, He helped along with Pastor Beth (Giller) and a couple other friends of mine who are pastors,” Hansen said.” We’ve just been really blessed with good leaders at our church, and people in our congregation are very supportive of people who go to the seminary.”
Getzinger, 52, was ordained Aug. 18, 2007 at St. Mark, and she became Faith Lutheran’s pastor two days later. She commuted each week to Trinity Lutheran Seminary, where she earned a Masters of Divinity degree.
“I went down on Sunday or Monday and came back Thursday when classes were done and spent weekends at home,” Getzinger said. “That’s what Jaci and Cindy Ritter are doing now. They’re together, and there are three Cindys from St. Mark going to Trinity. We said if your name is Cindy, don’t drink the water at St. Mark.”
Hansen, 53, who has been a member of St. Mark Lutheran all her life, attended Trinity from 2004-06, but she is still working toward her degree. She currently works for Toledo Area Ministries.
“I run one of their ministries called Suitably Attired, where we provide clothing for low-income women who are entering the workforce again,” said Hansen, who plans to return to school next fall. “We give them employment assistance and clothing to get started.”
Hansen, a Clay graduate, said she felt her calling to enter the ministry years ago. She is in the associate ministry program at Trinity.
“I went to Capital University years ago after high school, and then I came back,” said Hansen, who has four children with her husband, Tom. “I went away thinking I wanted to go away, but when I was there I decided I didn’t like it. Later on I went through a struggle with my health issues, and when I returned to school, getting called into the ministry came up again.
“I felt I wasn’t being called for ordained ministry, but more toward social ministry, which is what my degree will be in. I’ll be focusing on youth and family and social ministries,” Hansen said.
Ritter, 50, who has been a member of St. Mark for seven years, is working toward a Masters of Divinity degree from Trinity.
“I also serve at St. John’s in Stony Ridge,” she said. “As a seminary student, I have to spend every Sunday helping with worship service, helping with Sunday school. They send you away from your home congregations to serve at other Lutheran churches, to learn from other pastors and learn to work with other people.”
Ritter and Tiell, both Oregon residents, are roommates at Trinity and are taking the same courses. They moved in Sept. 3, and classes began Sept. 8.
“We ride down together every Monday and we come home together every Thursday night,’ Ritter said.
About seven years ago, Ritter said she “felt called” to become a hospital chaplain. After earning her bachelor’s degree in theological studies from Lourdes College, she became a seminarian at Trinity.
“The more I have been serving in a church congregation on Sundays, the more I realized I enjoy working with youth and working with communion,” Ritter said. “I worked at a different church a couple years ago, at St. Lucas. I really feel called to be a church pastor.”
Ritter said she’s happy with her decision to become a minster. She is expected to graduate from Trinity in 2012.
“I’m a wife and I have four children,” she said. “This is like a second career. I definitely feel called to be here. I love people and I love helping people.”
Tiell will also graduate with a Masters of Divinity degree from Trinity in 2012.
“It’s difficult,” Tiell said of her class schedule and commute to Trinity. “It’s challenging, but it’s exciting and rewarding. It will be great when it’s all done.”
Here at home, Tiell works part-time as a youth director at St. John Lutheran Church in Williston.
“I was raised most of my life in the church,” she said. “I started to feel the call and other people said, ‘You should go to the seminary.’ I started to check it out and things kind of seemed to work out. I kind of put it off for a while, but at some point I thought this is what I’m going to do, so just do it.”
Oberdorf attended Trinity from 1999-2003 and earned his master’s in lay ministry, with concentrations in youth and family. He is now an Associate in Ministry (AIM), or lay minister, at St. John Lutheran Church in Minster, Ohio.
“I do all the visitations and the senior ministry here,” Oberdorf said. “Anything with seniors or visitation, that’s what I do. I love the people. I love going to see them. A lot of these people don’t get to go out or don’t get to go to church or have families around here.”
Oberdorf was a member at St. Mark, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary on Sept. 27, from birth until 2003. He and his wife of 12 years, Christine, have two young children.
“I was definitely influenced by the youth pastor when I was in high school,” Oberdorf said. “Pastor John Snider was encouraging and he saw a lot of potential in me that I didn’t see in myself. St. Mark is very supportive and nurturing. They just want you to succeed. It’s really still my church. There is no place I’ve gone to yet that I’ve felt the way I’ve felt about St. Mark.”