Job application leads to Catholic Church membership for principal
August 21, 2020
When Tanya Murray inquired about volunteering to help in her daughter’s kindergarten classroom at Sacred Heart School in Omaha, she never imagined she would find a new job – and be led to a deeper relationship with Jesus.
Her unexpected journey culminated in her being named principal of Holy Name School in Omaha and becoming a member of the Catholic Church.
It began when Murray, a member of a non-denominational Christian church and executive director of the YMCA of Greater Omaha early childhood program, attended Sacred Heart’s Kindergarten Roundup in 2018.
There, she asked Principal Mike Jensen how she could volunteer.
He told her the first step was to visit the archdiocese’s website and sign up for safe environment training, which is required by the archdiocese for all volunteers and staff working with children in an archdiocesan parish or school.
Murray said she felt led while on the website to its Careers section, where she found a job posting for a school principal with the CUES (Christian Urban Education Service) school system, a partnership of three inner city Omaha schools – Sacred Heart, Holy Name and All Saints.
TALK TO ME JESUS
“I thought, ‘What are we doing here Jesus? Talk to me.’ I just felt like I was supposed to apply for this job,” she said.
Although the application deadline was already two weeks past, Murray prayed for guidance and talked with family members before finally applying. She was contacted shortly thereafter.
Initially she was told she could not be considered because she was not Catholic, Murray said, but she reached out anyway to Father David Korth, Sacred Heart pastor and CUES president.
She asked him, “If I’m willing to learn more about the Catholic faith, can I at least get an interview?”
She got the interview and committed that she would begin Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) classes at Sacred Heart Parish that fall to at least learn about the faith.
“If I got the position I would need to know about the Catholic faith if I’m going to be a leader at a Catholic school,” she said.
Murray was hired as Holy Name’s principal, and as she participated in RCIA classes, what she learned and the fellowship she experienced helped her resolve to convert.
“I started attending RCIA, fell in love with Sacred Heart and that just became my home,” she said, “and I never looked back after that.”
“The focus on having a relationship with God was so important during RCIA classes,” she said, “and really kept me tied in.”
‘GROUNDED IN SCRIPTURE’
Murray’s already strong Christian faith impressed Cathy Jenkins Walsh, RCIA coordinator at Sacred Heart Parish and leader of many of the classes.
“I was overwhelmed by her journey of faith, how strong it was and how grounded in Scripture,” said Jenkins Walsh. “She was already living her life with the joy of the Gospel.
“Things in her life always went back to faith, and it was clear that we were sisters in Christ.”
For Jim Swanson, Sacred Heart parishioner and CUES director of student and family services, Murray’s passion, enthusiasm and zeal were quickly evident, especially during RCIA classes he led on the Church’s social justice teachings.
She related strongly to that subject, he said.
Murray had been active in her non-denominational church, teaching Sunday school and helping out in the North Omaha community.
“Holy Name is such a diverse school, racially and socio-economically, (with) immigrant families,” Swanson said, “I saw her find a voice for justice within the Catholic Church.”
As fellow staff members of CUES, Murray and Swanson became well acquainted, and Murray eventually asked him to be her sponsor. “I was quite honored to do that,” he said.
Murray, who was already baptized, entered full communion with the Catholic Church in 2019 during the Easter Vigil at Sacred Heart Church, receiving her first Communion and Confirmation.
She said the Church’s teaching about the Eucharist was eye-opening and formative.
“Before I became a Catholic I was (uncertain) about receiving the Eucharist,” she said. “I just didn’t know or understand what that meant.”
In her non-denominational church, the communion bread and wine were seen as only symbols, she said. “When I became a Catholic, it just had so much more meaning … it was so much more important – this is Jesus’ body, this is his blood.
SENSE OF MISSION
Now, as a Catholic, new doors have opened for Murray.
“It has helped me open up my heart to so many other people … and helps me live my life and faith in all my vocations in life, not just my church and my career, but also with my family,” Murray said.
“It’s impacted my prayer life and with my children, (who) are not Catholic,” she said. “I’ve been able to share and model some of the Catholic prayers for my children at home (ages 7, 13 and 18) and make it part of what we do.”
And seeing their mother become Catholic and practicing her faith, and attending Mass together, her 7- and 18-year-olds also want to become Catholic, Murray said.
She also now has a sense of mission to share God’s love – to not only her children, but to her students, the North Omaha community and people in need.
And she values being able to share her faith on her job – something she could not do before. “I couldn’t talk about God. I couldn’t pray with the kids,” she said. Now she can help her students work through their challenges in the light of faith, she said.
“It’s so important to have an administrator who’s Catholic, because you’re doing mission work, bringing more people to God and to the Catholic faith, and the best way to do that is through the schools,” Murray said.
A NEW CHALLENGE
And Murray will now lean on God’s grace during another unexpected journey as she battles breast cancer.
Diagnosed in May, she is currently undergoing chemotherapy and her treatments are going well, she said. She will begin radiation treatments in October.
“I feel like it’s part of my testimony, and everything I experience will be able to help somebody else along in their journey,” she said.
Murray said her faith means everything to her as she battles her illness. “I pray constantly, so it’s definitely helped me maintain a positive outlook,” she said. “I have a relationship with God, I have all of these people that support me at my church home.”