Jessica Karis, 32, of St. Charles Parish, Hartland, has a big family; she’s the oldest of five children, three sisters ages 21 to 30 and one brother, age 20. But she also has a church “family,” people with whom she can have fun and grow in faith. Jessica Karis, 32, photographed in Milwaukee’s Cathedral Square earlier this month, is a member of St. Charles Parish, Hartland, and director of development at Catholic Memorial High School in Waukesha. (Catholic Herald myFaith photo by Ricardo Torres)

“To increase my faith, I have gotten involved in my church community,” she wrote in an email to Catholic Herald’s myFaith. “That has helped me make friends who are my age who are experiencing similar life circumstances and who have the same challenges and values I do.” 

Karis, who likes to attend “Brewing the Faith” young adult speaker series once a month, is also involved at her parish as a confirmation core team small group leader and confirmation core team retreat leader. 

“Teaching confirmation and helping out with retreats is a way for my faith to grow and for me to share my own experiences with others,” she wrote.

School and/or occupation:

Director of development at Catholic Memorial High School, Waukesha

What is your dream job?

Hmmm … this is a tough question. The practical and realistic side of me says I would love to be a college professor. The dreamer side of me thinks it would be cool to be the president of Disney World.

What’s on your iPod?

Zac Brown Band, Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift, Sugarland, Fun, Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Jason Mraz, Hunter Hayes, Matt Maher and Chris Tomlin. This is a little all over the place, but it depends what I am doing. I keep Pandora on almost all day in my office and I almost always listen to music when I run.

If you could dine with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Patrick Dempsey. I admire his talent as an actor and his tenacity to overcome dyslexia. I respect his philanthropic tendencies and the involvement he has with the community.

Who has made the biggest impact upon you?

My mom has taught me what it means to work hard and value your family. She has been a daily example of what it means to make sacrifices for the people you love, and to help your loved ones achieve the things in life that they desire that help their dreams come true. She was tough at times, but she instilled in me the value of education, and that I should always work hard and dream big.

What’s one thing that makes you unique?

I was a competitive swimmer for 15 years from age 7 to age 22. After I “retired” from swimming, I started running and have completed 6 marathons.

Describe a normal weekend:

If I am in training mode, a typical weekend is a pasta dinner on Friday night, up early on Saturday to run for a couple hours and then a nap followed by movies or time with my family. Sundays usually consist of making a big breakfast and then confirmation and church in the afternoon/evening. If I’m not training, I love a great fish fry on Friday night and sleeping in on Saturday morning.

Favorite Bible story/Scripture passage/prayer:

Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as he did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that he will make all things right if I surrender to his Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with him
forever in the next. Amen.

Favorite quote:

“Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical, and expecting more than others think is possible.” – Anonymous

What is your favorite food, dessert?

My favorite food is pickles. My favorite dessert is cheesecake.

A challenge in life that has strengthened your faith:

On Holy Thursday of 2012, I went to Mass feeling very broken and full of hurt. I had gone through a devastating break-up at the end of January and it was still very heavy and painful months later. That night at Mass, while I sat there crying, I asked God to take away the pain. I told him I couldn’t carry the weight of this pain anymore. While I was sitting in adoration after Mass that night I heard in my head, “Your compass is broke.” I thought to myself, my compass is broken??? God had started to show me how wonderful life can be when it is filled with love and then he ripped it away because I wasn’t living the best ways that I could. It was through lots of prayer, attending Mass, and sharing my faith with others that I was ultimately able to heal and find the true love and joyful life that God created me for.

Favorite pastime/hobby/activity:

Running, yoga, reading and cooking

What is the most important thing you want to accomplish in life?

I want to be a mom.

How do you live your faith every day?

I live my faith every day in lots of little ways. I wear a cross around my neck, even when I am wearing other jewelry over it. I have an angel with a prayer clipped to the sun visor in my car. My fiancé and I pray before meals and share our special intentions.

Name one guilty pleasure: 

Patrick Dempsey movies and ice cream with chocolate syrup.