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Jen Quinn

Jen was born and raised in St. Louis. Her family was very involved in their parish, Incarnate Word, and both family and faith were highly emphasized in their household. They ate dinner as a family every night, and her mom encouraged her and her siblings to read and be creative. Given this, Jen was a pretty nerdy kid; she was a strict rule follower, and she tried to “be good” because “Jesus wanted [her] to be good.” 

Jen attended St. Joseph’s Academy and met a fantastic group of girls, many of whom she still calls her closest friends. She attended her church youth group but did not feel intellectually filled. She always understood and experienced “heart” in her faith but wanted more of the “brain” aspect. She attended Saint Louis University (SLU) for her undergraduate degrees and received two Bachelor of Arts degrees, one in theology and another in theatre performance.

While she was in college, the attacks of 9/11 occurred. The entire country was distraught and had no idea what to do or how to process this event. SLU held a prayer vigil, and the choir director at College Church asked if she would cantor for this vigil. This was the first time that Jen ever sang at College Church, and she has been singing there ever since. 

“I’ve never seen College Church so full. There was an ocean of people, and I had to step over people to get to the cantor stand. As I was singing, I had a moment where I felt that I was lifted out of my body, and I felt the Spirit tell me, ‘This is for you; this is your skill.’ That’s something I’ve never doubted since then.”

Upon graduating, Jen had no plan. She studied two things that she loved but didn’t necessarily have a mentor who helped her figure out a path forward. All she knew was that she loved both theatre and her faith and had no idea how she would live this out.

Jen worked at Starbucks for two years after receiving her undergraduate degree. She had an education and skills but didn’t have direction, only a sense of clarity of purpose.  

Trading Starbucks for Shakespeare, Jen toured with a Shakespeare touring company for a year-and-a-half.  It was during this time that she realized she missed engaging people through some sort of ministry, and she accepted a job as campus minister at Visitation Academy. Regarding this shift, Jen shared, “Stories are critical. The stories we tell of who we are as individuals, who we are as a human people, and who Christ is matter. In acting, I embody a person. I may not be this person, but I understand some parts of this person. As a minister, I help people connect their story to Christ’s.” While working at Visitation, she met her now-husband on a blind date, and they married two years later. 

After some time, Jen felt she was being called to something else. She took this opportunity to explore the idea of graduate school. Her husband, Terry, had a few friends who attended Aquinas Institute, and she wanted a program that would allow her to explore scripture - and the stories found within - in a deep way.   

Jen loved her scripture classes, and she loved her classmates! Jen shared a moment in her time as a Master of Arts student at Aquinas that genuinely touched her: 

“Halfway through one semester, Br. James Peter [now Fr. James Peter] stopped me and said, ‘When I entered the Dominican order, I was confused as to why they train us with lay people, and then I met you, and I realized why.’” Jen continued her story, saying, “Dominicans don’t train their people like other seminaries do. There’s a reason the Dominican order isn’t dying. It’s because they’ve made it a point to train men in a school that works how the world works.” 

After graduating, Jen served as a middle school religion teacher at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in St. Charles. She initially thought she would hate teaching middle school but quickly learned that she loves how middle schoolers' brains work! 

Five years ago, Jen began her work as a Campus Minister at Washington University’s Catholic Student Center, and she loves it! She works with graduate students and young adults. Jen runs Upper Room, an undergraduate formation program for students who have an active faith life but want to learn more about the church’s intellectual tradition. She also runs an intergenerational book club.

She spends most of her days walking with her students on one of their faith journeys, drinking coffee, and helping students figure out what’s next for them. She’s been married for twelve years and has four chickens, two dogs, and one adorable and hilarious baby boy. 

Jen is still very involved in the theatre world and works part-time at the CSC to be a mom and be involved in theatre. She performs in three to four shows annually, and you can frequently catch her serving as a cantor at various parishes and events. (She will be joining us for Aquinas’ Commencement services). Jen said, “God making me an artist is the best thing he could’ve made me. It’s the vehicle in which I speak about him without knowing I’m speaking about him or having to try.”

When asked about Aquinas Institute’s impact on her, Jen shared, “Being the only female in many of my classes made me more feminist in my theology. Not because that’s what I was being taught, but because I was the only woman in many of my classes. I realized, ‘Wow, my voice does need to be heard.’ I started to see more of the inequity and disparity in the church and the world.”