The Revd Kathryn Watt

The Revd Kathryn Watt

From lawyer to priest: a life-transforming decision

In her forties, Kathryn Watt, had a seemingly perfect life: a loving husband, two wonderful daughters, a comfortable home and a successful and enjoyable legal career as General Counsel for the regional arm of a large, American financial services company. She served on several company boards and had a strong involvement in community activities. Born, raised and educated in Melbourne, Kathryn was also a devout Roman Catholic.

“For a time when I was young I considered holy orders but could not see how the role of women in the Catholic church would enable me to serve God and my community in the way I felt called to do,” she says. “Instead, it was with a background of simple Christian faith that I worked my way through life, with scripture and the messages of the Gospel providing answers to various quandaries.”

But one evening at home, Kathryn was thinking about how to manage a problem that had arisen at work, when she made a decision that would transform her life. 

“The television was on in the background and, by chance, a woman, standing in an Anglican Cathedral, was reading a passage of scripture during a celebration of the life of a woman leader, who hadn’t always been Anglican. 

“Hearing the words, ‘Put on the whole armour of God’, not only provided an answer to the problem, but it prompted me to ponder where I stood with my faith, my relationship with God, how I was living my life and the potential opportunities that I had as a woman outside the Catholic Church. With a great sense of relief, I realised that I could indeed work towards becoming a priest,” she says. 

“My family encouraged me to follow my call to serve God through ordained ministry, even though it meant moving to a smaller home and other disruptions, while my colleagues said they were not at all surprised by my decision to study theology.

“I applied to Trinity College Theological School, which I knew of by reputation and from acquaintances who had studied there. I was relieved to find that I wasn’t the oldest applicant, nor was I the only ‘new’ Anglican going through the selection process,” Kathryn admits.

“I initially enrolled for the six-unit Graduate Diploma in Theology course, just to put my toe in the water to see how I’d go, but on the advice of faculty members, I subsequently changed to the 18-unit Master of Divinity degree, which I have loved.

“So that I could smooth my transition from one career to the next, I started by studying a single subject online, but thereafter I organised my life so I could attend classes in person. 

“I benefitted enormously from being at Trinity. In particular, the ministry formation program was extremely thought-provoking and gave us great exposure to the many different forms of ministry. This enabled us to see what our own path should be,” she says. 

Kathryn is also full of praise for Trinity’s faculty members. “They are highly respected leaders who take a very personal interest in each individual student. They are extremely knowledgeable, open and sharing of their own experiences and it was a privilege to be taught by them,” she explains.

Ordained a Deacon in February 2017, Kathryn was appointed Assistant Curate at the Anglican Parish of St Stephen and St Mary in Mt Waverley, a south-eastern suburb of Melbourne. She describes her new career in suburban parish ministry as “the best job ever!” 

To utilise her corporate skills she also serves on the Board of Anglicare and the Diocesan Schools’ Commission, as well as one commercial company board.

In June 2017, Kathryn was sponsored by the Melbourne Diocese to join 24 other people from around the world in the Canterbury Scholars’ program in the UK. This brings together people who are in the early stages of their Anglican ministry, many of whom, Kathryn discovered, had also had earlier, different careers. It also enabled her to meet the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby.

Kathryn was ordained a priest on 26 November 2017, thereby completing her journey from corporate lawyer to priest. “I could not be happier,” she says.

Article written by Rosemary Sheludko