The Reverend Tracy Paschke-Johannes, chaplain with Hospice of Cincinnati and currently serving Epiphany Lutheran Church in Dayton, Ohio, for spiritual care needs, has been named the Rev. David and Carol Matevia Endowed University Pastor.Paschke-Johannes succeeds The Rev. Rachel and Anders Tune, the inaugural holders of the endowed position, who will be retiring July 31, following 23 years of dedicated service to Wittenberg. Paschke-Johannes will begin her new responsibilities on Aug. 18.
“In Tracy, we have found a wonderful faith partner who will walk with our students as they ask deep questions around meaning, belonging, and purpose, all while understanding the urgency and intensity that is often associated with significant transition, especially in a young adult’s life,” said Wittenberg President Michael L. Frandsen, Ph.D. “We are excited that Tracy has accepted our offer and look forward to seeing her share her unique gifts with our campus community.”
An ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Paschke-Johannes is currently responsible for assessing the spiritual needs of individuals and families, focused on using their personal beliefs and traditions to create meaning and increased peace. She also assists individuals and families in creating purpose during times of significant end-of-life transitions. Serving individuals from diverse faith traditions and cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, she ensures that rituals, faith practices, and cultural values are honored. She applied for the position at Wittenberg out of a deep respect for the power of a liberal arts education.
“An environment that encourages an integrated education, with a focus on critical thinking, has a profound impact on the individual student and the greater community,” she said. “I have seen firsthand the impact in my own life and in my ministry. Attending a small, Lutheran liberal arts college myself, I was able to foster a love of lifelong learning, surrounded by professors and a community who knew my name and who I was as a person. Being a part of an institution with a rich Lutheran heritage is also a blessing as a pastor.
“I’m thrilled to join a community that is clearly student-focused, deeply in touch with who we are as a Lutheran liberal arts University, and equipped to make the necessary shifts to prepare students for an ever-changing world. Wittenberg’s commitment to diversity and inclusion connects deeply with my personal values and family. In addition, my family has attended Wittenberg’s Lessons and Carols for eight years, and I am honored to be a part of this beautiful tradition as well,” she added.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Paschke-Johannes was on the front lines creating innovative faith practices to connect patients and families separated due to COVID. She provided support and in-person spiritual care to staff experiencing individual crisis and communal trauma due to increased COVID deaths and strains on the established system, as well as remote care to families.
“The past two years have led to some of the most fundamental and dramatic shifts in culture that we have seen in our lifetime,” she said. “Traditional models for college students and end-of-life patients alike no longer ‘fit’ or ‘work’ as they once did. Yet, our tradition reminds us Christ models love that is eternal.”
Having received her Master of Divinity from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, Paschke-Johannes has served the church since 2008. She also has a master’s degree in communication from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, and a bachelor’s degree in communication from Midland University in Fremont, Nebraska, along with five years of experience teaching and coaching college students.
Her other professional experience includes being the lead pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Muncie, Indiana, from 2008 to 2015 where she led Sunday worship, including sacramental ministry and preaching, and provided spiritual care to families and individuals experiencing crisis, grief, and loss.
Additionally, Paschke-Johannes was an assistant professor of communication at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and a graduate teaching assistant at Ball State. She has served her communities in many ways as well, including as co-chair of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee for Hospice of Cincinnati, as a founding board member of Parents Empowering All Children of Color in Springboro, Ohio, as an interfaith ministry coordinator at Leaders For Equality & Action in Dayton, as a board member of Project Stepping Stone in Muncie, and as a council member of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod in Indianapolis, Indiana.
At Wittenberg, the Rev. David and Carol Matevia Endowed University Pastor provides institutional leadership for religious and spiritual life, and is called to lead the campus community in ministry and pastoral care.
The position was established thanks to the vision and leadership-level support of the late Rev. David P. Matevia, class of 1960, who passed away in August 2021, and wife Carol Matevia.
In her new role, Paschke-Johannes will partner with a variety of offices and senior administration to lead the community to define and articulate a vision for religious and spiritual life while directing programs and activities to nurture the spiritual growth and development of students.
“In my personal faith, the theological concept that ‘we are surrounded by a great cloud of witness’ is central. To me, this means I am a current steward of a tradition that has been given to us by the faith, commitment, and ministry of those who have gone before us,” Paschke-Johannes said of the Rev. David and Carol Matevia Endowment. “It is my call to steward and care for this ministry in this time, knowing that, God willing, someday we will pass it along to generations yet unborn. It is a deep honor to be a part of this ministry.”
In addition to providing leadership for the religious community on campus, including the Interfaith Committee, promoting wholeness and growth among a diverse and changing student body, pastorally supporting students, faculty, staff, and others members of the University community, and stewarding and representing the ELCA at the institution, Paschke-Johannes will guide and support the ministries of such faith-based student organizations as the Weaver Chapel Association, Athletes in Action, Cru, IMANI Gospel Choir, Jewish Culture Club, Common Ground, and Newman Club. Moreover, she will assist students eager to develop their own spiritual identities and campus programming initiatives, along with developing and implementing strategies to promote a creative and faithful culture of worship.
Paschke-Johannes will serve as a member of the Vice President for Student Development and Dean of Students' leadership team with additional reporting to the President.
“Tracy embodies characteristics that will assist members of our community of all faiths and religious backgrounds to explore and continue their spiritual journey while at Wittenberg,” said Vice President for Student Development and Dean of Students Casey Gill, Ph.D., who chaired the search committee. “We are thrilled to welcome her to the Wittenberg community to serve as the Rev. David and Carol Matevia Endowed University Pastor.”