In 1957, Rev. Dr. Cathleen Narowitz graduated from Crozer Theological Seminary (CTS) and what is today, Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School (CRCDS). She was the only woman in her graduating class, as well as the only woman in the entire seminary. At the time it was difficult for women to find a place in the seminary community, and Dr. Narowitz was still able to achieve her goals.
Dr. Narowitz didn’t wake up one day and decide that she wanted to be a part of the ministry. Her story starts years before, when she was in the first grade in Seattle, Washington. Dr. Narowitz found her calling during the time when Pearl Harbor was bombed. She remembers sitting in the car and hearing the news on the radio.
When she went back to school, she felt the massive separation between children. The community was in fear, and as a person of German descent she experienced different treatment at school. Even as a young child, she could feel the tensions and prejudice against others during the school day. Everything about it felt wrong and scary to her. Any sense of community had disappeared. Cathleen wanted to help get a sense of community back and help her fellow students.
It was during this time that someone stopped by her family’s house and asked if she could join an after-school meeting to talk about Jesus. Cathleen knew she needed to be there, and insisted she be able to go. The ability to attend these meetings changed the trajectory of her life.
It was here that her journey into the ministry started, even before she realized it. In an interview with the American Baptist Churches USA she said, “I learned then that Jesus loved me, when I didn't think anyone else did.”
Dr. Narowitz found her sense of community within the church and Jesus at a very young age. Her journey through life eventually motivated her to apply to a seminary. Before CTS, she had applied to a seminary on the West Coast in California. Since women weren’t common in seminaries yet, there were no housing options for her. During the application process, she also realized there would be no place for her to serve as a pastor post-graduation.
When things didn’t work out on the West Coast, Dr. Narowitz found her home at Crozer. There was no housing for women at any seminary at the time, but the faculty at CTS accepted her into the community and found her a place to live. Dr. Narowitz worked as a janitor during her time at CTS to pay for her education, as well.
After graduating, Dr. Narowitz served 26 interim ministry positions in the American Baptist Churches, USA. Her journey goes to show that anything is possible with a supportive community behind you, like the one that’s been created at Crozer. In 1974 she received her doctorate from Andover Newton Theological Seminary.
Dr. Narowitz will be celebrating her 90th birthday in September and is looking forward to attending the American Baptist Women in Ministry conference later this summer.