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Introducing John Valters Paintner!

I’m a Yankee-Doodle Catholic

John Valters PaintnerGreetings to The Abbey of the Arts community! My name is John Valters Paintner. I am blessed to be married to your online Abbess, Christine. And I am honored to be joining her in a more direct manner as your online Prior. I just returned from two weeks in Vienna, Austria where I assisted my wife and Kayce Hughett in leading a retreat. But before I begin more work with the Abbey, I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you all a little about myself, my background and my inspirations.

I was born on the feast day of John the Baptist to John and Helen Paintner. I was baptized Roman Catholic shortly later on the Fourth of July. I am the oldest male child, with two loving older sisters. The family joke is that I did not learn to speak until I entered Kindergarten, as up until then they always spoke for me. My first complete sentence was, “Yeah, what they said.”

My mother spent much of her childhood in a Benedictine boarding school. She wanted to go there because she had been interested in becoming a nun from a young age. Because of the massive changes happening in the Church at the time of the Second Vatican Council, my mother was allowed to take temporary vows. For a variety of reasons, she decided to leave the order and start a family. I think a part of her never left “the Big House,” as her young siblings would call the convent.

A short time later, she met my father at the church in which Christine and I would marry. (Our reception was in the very hall where my parents first met.) My father had been a member of the Knights of Columbus for a short while, but left it to join the 3rd Order of Franciscans with my mother.

Not only did I grow up half a block down from our parish church, but I attended the parochial school from Kindergarten until the 8th Grade. I was an altar-boy and would often serve at the Sunday morning mass where my mother was the cantor and my father was a regular Eucharistic minister. I often felt a bit sad for my sisters were born just a little too early to be allowed to be acolytes. Even back then it didn’t seem right that they were “stuck” in the pew while the rest of the family had more active roles in the liturgy.

I attended an all-boys Catholic high school in the area and became very active in the parish youth ministry program. A significant moment in my spiritual development came on a pilgrimage to Poland for the World Youth Day. My main motivation for attending the trip was a chance to go to Europe with my friends and much of the trip was a blur of activity. But I remember clearly the concluding Mass when Pope John Paul II challenged all the youth present to not to be afraid to be holy. I returned from the pilgrimage fired up and ready to be holy. I just didn’t quit know how to do that yet. The quest to learn what it means to be holy led me to an interfaith Bible sharing group and eventually the Newman Center, where Christine and I met 21 years ago. I’m still discovering what being holy is all about, but the blessings of the journey continue to multiply.

When I began college I really didn’t know what career I wanted to pursue. I eventually found myself called into teaching. I earned a BA in multiple-subject education and a post-graduate teaching certificate. But after student-teaching, I knew that spending all day in a room with small children was not for me. I tried the business world, but that was even less my calling. I was fortunate to be asked to serve as the youth minister at a Catholic parish in a small California town. When Christine was accepted into the doctoral program at the GTU in Berkeley, we moved to the Bay Area. I took a position at another Catholic parish as a pastoral associate. When we left pricey San Francisco for more affordable Berkeley, I went back to the classroom teaching religion at a Catholic high school in Oakland. I was able to finish my Masters in Theological Studies part-time while Christine completed her doctorate.

During a family reunion in the Pacific Northwest, Christine and I found ourselves called to Seattle. Providence was in our favor. I obtained a teaching position at a Catholic high school and we moved into a cozy condominium in a great Seattle neighborhood. The real blessing of the job was the course I taught: Old Testament. In order to be a better teacher, I delved and studied the Hebrew Scriptures. Despite all the ups and downs of teaching at an all-boys Catholic high school, that course kept me coming back year after year. When the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops decided to standardize the religion departments in all the Catholic high schools in the country, they opted for a curriculum they referred to as “All Jesus, All the Time.” I disagreed with this program on educational and theological terms, but did not even have a say in choosing course books . . . I knew it was time for a change.

The change came in the form of Christine’s Austrian passport. We sold our home and most of our belongings and we headed east for a grand adventure. While it may seem that we’ve backtracked a bit to Ireland, we are moving forward in life and in ministry as I join the Abbey of the Arts.

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29 Responses

  1. Welcome, John so glad you are going to be our online prior. It has been wonderful to learn more about you and I hope to get to know you better as time goes on. Christine and the Abbey have opened up my soul in ways I cannot express and have given me a place to grow spiritually that I feel understood.
    May you continue to be blessed.

  2. Welcome, John. It is good to get to know you in this way. We catholics, like you, my husband, Tom and I, “from the begining”, schooled early by the good sisters and the Jesuits in our case, have moved in our church in the best way we can and all have had our stuggles. Thank you for your faithfulness to your calling. My Celtic stream of faith and my husband’s, inhereted from our Irish ancestors, with its historical “beyond Hadrian’s Wall distance” from the vacilations of Rome has allowed us to find our every changing place within our faith tradition. While nowdays we would not be comfortablbe in a parish (though earlier we were CCD leaders and heavily involved etc), we love our community at the Oblate School of Theology under the guidance of author and Preseident there, Father Ron Rolheiser. My husband and I volunteer in our County Jail through the Chaplains Department leading classes in visual spiritual journaling and breaking open the Word of the scriptures in current Mass. I mention this because I want you and Christine to know what a blessing it has been for Tom and I – in our majority as retirees – to have a mninistry together. Blessings on your work as our new Prior and welcome.

  3. Thank you John for such a concise response. I am not familiar with the curriculum, so that explanation helps me understand your frustration. Having been raised in the episcopal church with a conversion experience in my teens and a short jaunt into some charismatic stuff (which soon became problematic) I needed the framework of the church. Any bubble thatI have lived in has been popped by having a crop of young adult children, so I’m loving Richard Rohr’s take on life… It all has to fall apart. I do believe Jesus is the fullness of God’s self revelation. The whole dichotomy of , “he who does not gather with me scatters” and “in my fathers house are many dwelling places”…that is where I live. Hard to be in a camp, under a banner or political party. Am I confused or just in the mystery? Perhaps we are both in the latter.

  4. Deborah, my problem with the new curriculum was both academic and theological. Academically, I knew that eight semesters of Christology-based courses was going to become tiresome for the students. Like many of my students, I attended Catholic schools from Kindergarten through high school. As a teenager, I and my classmates were beginning to feel a little religion-class-burn-out. Teenagers have a tendency to think they know everything anyway, and I felt this new curriculum would just make matters worse. Theologically, it seemed to me that the US Catholic bishops were trying to please the Evangelicals. I had been teaching a year-long course that delved deeply into the Old Testament, reading whole books at a time and significant sections of others. But now, in the new freshmen course I was expected to debunk the misconception that Catholics don’t read the Bible. And as far as actually any reading of the Old Testament, the new course was to stress this importance of not taking Bible passages out of context . . . while reducing the Old Testament to footnotes about the coming of Christ.

  5. Thank you, fellow monks in the world! You heart-felt welcome is a great official introduction to the community. I look forward to interacting with you in the future.

  6. Greetings, John!
    I’m sure we’ll be blessed by your insights and participation in this ministry. The Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways and I’m sure the short-sighted view of “All Jesus, All The Time” will be a blessing in the long run. Just like we cannot fully appreciate Jesus’ New Covenant without the context of the Old Testament Covenants, it is very helpful knowing your background, too. God bless and thanks for sharing!

  7. Thank you, John for telling us about yourself. I look forward to hearing more from you.

  8. Hi John,
    So glad to hear your voice! One question, what was it about the curriculum that made you uncomfortable. I have been in a place, very undone, where this conversation might be helpful. It would also help me understand the mission of the Abbey of the Arts. I’m also looking into getting training as a chaplain, so as you can see, many levels going on …
    Thank you!