Skip To Main Content

JoAnn Waycaster

JoAnn is a Doctor of Ministry in Preaching student but started her career as an attorney. Attorney to Preacher…now that’s a story!  

JoAnn was born in Mississippi and was adopted at four days old. She was raised by a Methodist father and a Baptist mother. When she was six years old, JoAnn’s father passed away. After that, church wasn’t a part of life for her or her mother. Yet, somehow, she always ended up at church. Neighbors, extended family members, and friends always offered to take her to church and ensure that faith remained a part of her life. At the age of 11, she was baptized in a small rural Baptist church.

When explaining that she was adopted, JoAnn’s parents told her that “a very nice attorney” helped them adopt her. With that, JoAnn decided that she would be an attorney. She attended college at Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge, LA, where she was introduced to and fell in love with the Catholic Church. She converted to Catholicism just a month before she graduated from college.

JoAnn attended law school at Mississippi College, where she met her husband! At orientation, the dean told the students to look to the person on their left and right and that one wouldn’t be there at the end of the semester. Little did she know that her future husband was the person to her left. The two graduated from law school three years later and married the following year.

After law school, JoAnn and her husband Todd moved to Natchez, MS, and began to practice law together. JoAnn practiced law for about ten years before she felt the Lord calling her in a different and very unexpected direction.

In 2005, a friend shared with her a brochure about the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS). The two decided to begin training to be Level 1 catechists, driving three hours each week for the training. They started a CGS program at their home parish, and JoAnn became a CGS catechist in Levels 1-3. 

While JoAnn was still practicing law and her oldest son was in first grade, he brought home from school a coloring page explaining that the bread and wine were a symbol of Christ’s Body and Blood. With that, she knew that she had to do something. She approached her pastor about starting an atrium at the school. With his support, she began a CGS atrium at Cathedral Elementary School the following year, where she was a catechist for ten years.

When asked about the transition from law to teaching, JoAnn said, “I continue to use the public speaking and communication skills that I learned while practicing law - even the negotiation skills! Being able to tell a story well is an important part of being an attorney, teaching, and preaching.”

 When a teaching position became available in the high school theology department, the school approached JoAnn about moving from the elementary to the high school. JoAnn accepted the position, but it required a master’s degree.  She began the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies - Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (MAPS-CGS) program at Aquinas as she began her new teaching position. Near the completion of the program, two of her professors, Dr. Ann Garrido and Dr. Carolyn Wright, asked the cohort members what other topics they may like to explore, and JoAnn said preaching. They set up an opportunity for her to preach at vespers during the cohort's in-person session, and as JoAnn says, “I was hooked!” Her professors encouraged her to apply for the Doctor of Ministry in Preaching program, and JoAnn eagerly stepped up to the challenge!

 “I never imagined I’d be Catholic, that I’d be teaching anywhere, let alone a Catholic School, and I certainly didn’t expect to study theology or preaching. God continues to work in my life, and I am confident that the Holy Spirit will lead me to use my gifts for my good and that of others.”

JoAnn joined the Doctor of Ministry in Preaching program in the 2022 cohort, something that she could have never imagined. She and her cohort members recently attended their last in-person intensive at Aquinas and are beginning to work on their thesis projects.


JoAnn has four living children and one child who is with the Lord. They, along with her students and other various ministries, keep her very busy. “It’s a lot to find study time and to be away for a week each semester. I am thankful for my family, friends, and co-workers who make my doctoral studies possible. It is such a luxury to have the intensive weeks to be with my cohort and to focus entirely on this work.”

JoAnn currently holds the titles of Theology Instructor and Theology Department Chairperson at Cathedral Catholic School in Natchez, Mississippi. She teaches Catholic morality, Theology of the Body, and Catholic Social Teaching and is the peer ministry coordinator for the school.

People are often puzzled when JoAnn tells them she is working towards a Doctor of Ministry in Preaching as a woman in the church. JoAnn hopes to preach more and show others that women have an essential role in the church's preaching ministry. She is focusing her thesis project on preaching in Catholic education. Some of her motivating questions are: “How do we truly use preaching in Catholic education to minister to the whole child? How might preaching enable students to embody the Gospel, and what is the role of imagination in this process?”

JoAnn has had quite a journey to come to where she is today. She inspires many and works to shape the future of Catholic education and catechesis. Pray for her as she works towards completing her dissertation and for her future ministry.

Regarding her journey, she shared, “It hasn’t been a straight path, and, at times, it’s been quite difficult, but I am certain that, all along, God is weaving together something beautiful.”