Worlds of Experience Back on Campus

Sister Laura Zelten, O.S.F. '79 (Parish) and the Rev. Mike Weber, O.Praem. (Religious Studies).
Sister Laura Zelten, O.S.F. '79 (Parish) and the Rev. Mike Weber, O.Praem. (Religious Studies).

Although the Rev. Mike Weber, O.Praem., (Religious Studies) and Sister Laura Zelten, O.S.F., ’79 (Parish) took different paths to St. Norbert College, their lives have some parallels. Both have served in the United States and abroad: Weber, as a teacher, campus minister, hospital chaplain and Air Force chaplain, and Zelten as a teacher, campus minister and missionary in Nicaragua.

Both draw on their experiences for their current work, while providing the witness of a religious presence on campus. Weber will teach the psychology of religion and spirituality this summer for the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program. Zelten is a part-time pastoral associate at St. Norbert College Parish, and is also director of vocations for her community.

Weber, a Norbertine for more than 40 years, taught psychology and was a campus minister at St. Norbert in the late 1970s before deciding “to broaden my horizons in a way, putting myself in situations that would be challenging to me, in experiences that would not be comfortable to me initially.”

First came hospital chaplaincy where he learned to minister in an emergency room and trauma center. This included assisting victims and families of the cyanide-laced Tylenol poisonings that killed seven people in 1982. 

Later, service in the military brought with it physical training, rigid structure and the dangers of combat. In the Air Force, his service included deployments to Panama, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and twice to Afghanistan. He received four oak leaf clusters for meritorious service before retiring in 2011 as a lieutenant colonel, after 23 years of service. 

In class he says he can draw from his military or clinical experiences to amplify certain concepts. “As a general rule, the more experiences one has in a variety of situations, I think the better teacher you become.”

Zelten, a native of De Pere, serves with the Revs. John Tourangeau, O.Praem., ’81, pastor, and Sal Cuccia, O.Praem., ’63, associate pastor. She focuses on parish council, social justice, outreach and caring for elderly parishioners – active and retired faculty and staff, and their families. Zelten estimates she spends 5 percent of her time visiting hospitals and nursing homes, and helping families during and after funerals.

She sees her role “as being a welcoming, caring and nurturing person” who listens to people’s problems and joys and helps them discern how to grow in their relationship to God. Part of that includes using the Spanish from her days in Nicaragua. And she cited the Knitters for Peace baby blankets given to families at baptisms to symbolize the parish community wrapping the family in prayer and love. She says their popularity shows people long for signs and symbols.

Zelten enjoys the intellectual element, opportunities to lead prayers, being a visible presence at graduation and around campus, and helping young people and staff discern how God is calling them. “All these pieces create that whole sense of communio that is part of the Norbertine tradition.”

July 2, 2013