Meet the Chaplain


The Rev. Catherine Quehl-Engel+ ('89)
Chaplain of the College
(319) 895-4402

Office location: Third Floor Old Sem 
Hours: Typically 1-4:30 p.m., M-F. Appointments encouraged.


My name is Rev. Catherine Quehl-Engel ("Fr. Cathy", "Padre", CQE) and am privileged to serve my alma mater as Cornell's Chaplain since 1996.  

 VOCATION:  As Therese of Lisieux would say, my vocation is love.  My living out of that vocation as Chaplain of Cornell College involves the care and growth of souls--not only as a spiritual guide, priest, and counselor, but through teaching, mentoring, interfaith-understanding, inviting students to ask and explore the big questions (love, death, "God", suffering, hope), and serving as an institutional and spiritual leader of complex community. I provide pastoral care and spiritual nurture for students, faculty, and staff of diverse backgrounds and needs within Christianity, other faith traditions, among seekers, the "spiritual but not religious", and folks with secular perspectives. 

 In the pastoral/spiritual guide context and beyond I help people explore their interior lives, discern their sense of meaning, clarify their values, and expand their awareness of interconnection with others, world, and God (Since the word "God" trips some people up because it's often been misused and abused, some prefer names like "Ground of Being", "the Eternal", "Love", "Web of Relation", or "Ultimate Reality."  Besides. As St. Augustine puts it, "If you think you comprehend God, then it isn't God."  Or, as Judaism humbly says about the sacred name YHWH--the great I AM:  Don't even try pronouncing it because if you do, you'll think you know what you're talking about!  The name is not pronounceable.  It's only breathable.  Besides.  This way you get to remain humble and God gets to remain Mystery). 

I provide voluntary opportunities for spiritual and/or religious growth and practice. This includes: Soul Feast Chapel w/ Peace Eucharist (Holy Communion) on Wednesdays and  Meditation, Silent Centering Prayer & Mindfulness on Fridays.  This also includes monastic, outdoor, and other spiritual retreats; service projects and social justice programming, and assisting Hillel, Sanctuary, evangelicals and other student groups with their religious needs.  I work with an amazing group of 20 students who serve on The Office of Chaplain & Spiritual Life Leadership team.  This team is an umbrella group for two groups:  A mainline ecumenical Christian leadership sub group ("Soul Friends") and our multi-faith and general spirituality offering subgroup ("The Interfaith Exploration & Understanding") which, practically all the Soul Friends leaders are part of as well. 

As for teaching, in the Religion Department, I've created three courses: Jesus and Judaism, Suffering and the Sacred, as well as Namaste: Mysticism, Meditation, and Servant Leadership--a contemplative and service-learning Hindu and Christian inter-spirituality course which travels to India Term 3 of 2010.  

I provide pre-theology and pre-ministerial career advising; serve as minister in campus ceremonies and memorials; preach and preside at Baccalaureate; assist various divisions of the College as needed (Alumni & Advancement, Admissions, Student Affairs, and Academic Affairs); and help the president sustain the College's relationship with the United Methodist Church in and beyond the Iowa Annual Conference.  

As an Episcopal priest serving in an ecumenical and interfaith capacity at a United Methodist affiliated school, I am a Christian who values diverse religious, spiritual but not religious, and secular  perspectives, knowing we are are at our best as a compassionate, just, and free, democratic society and educational institution when this is so.  For over two decades I have participated in, studied, and fostered interfaith understanding, reconciliation, and bridge building.  This is not about erasing our distinctive identities.  It is about honoring the authenticity of our differing experiences and lenses for meaning making.  It is about owning and confessing the sins of the past and present when religious and anti-religious dualistic thinking, hate, fear, ignorance, and violence divide and diminish us all. It is about amplifying inter-spiritual or universal spiritual wisdom East and West.  And increasing awareness of our shared values, virtues, pathways for healing, wholeness, and enlightenment: That is, loving kindness, humility, graciousness and tender mercy, relinquishment, forgiveness, justice, honoring the stranger, and uplifting the down trodden and oppressed.   For me personally, it comes down to theological humility, the Way of self-emptying, meekness before Mystery, scriptural mandates to love, interdependency, reconciling virtue, and reverence for the One in the many--an underlying sacred oneness which, amid our differences, beads us together on a string of Love.   Union and oneness with God entails or leads to union and oneness with all beings.     As Mother Teresa said to her Sisters, they are not to convert others to Christ; they are to be Christ.  And as Mother Teresa, Christian  tradition, and Rama Krishna have said in explaining their loving care of others, we are to serve and revere God in all.


After graduating from Cornell in 1989 I received an M.Div. and M.A. in Religion are from Pacific School of Religion (1994) in Berkeley, CA which included  study at Yad Vashem World Holocaust Center/Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  My masters work focused on the intersection of theology of human suffering, history of Jewish-Christian relations, and religion & the visual arts,  In 1994 I entered a Theology, Ethics, and Culture Ph.D. program at The University of Iowa School of Religion though ultimately left that for joy as both a mom and chaplain of my alma mater.   I was ordained within the United Church of Christ in 1996 (I still revere this tradition) then as an Episcopal priest in 2006.  

Within the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa, I am an Associate Priest at Trinity Episcopal Church in Iowa City, serve on the Diocese' Board of Directors, served as Director of the diocesan Summer Ministry School & Retreat (2006-2009).  It has also been a joy to be an artist and curator for national Episcopal Church Religion and Visual Arts exhibitions.   Work with The United Methodist Church has included serving as a consultant to The Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry; hosting,preaching, and leading workshops for Iowa Conference youth event; hosting Confirmation Day and district clergy events, and partnering with the UMC Bishop's office as well as other bishop offices to address social justice issues related to flood  clean up workers in 2008.  Cornell remains highly engaged in Cedar Rapids flood recovery and other service projects coordinated through the Civic Engagement Office.

I live in Mt. Vernon with my beloved, Craig ('87), our daughter, Rachel, and our dog Atticus Finch.


  • Namaste: Visual Meditations on Mystical Theology & The Divine Within (Cornell College; The Lincoln Cafe; Trinity Episcopal-Iowa City (2009-2010) 
  • Mother & Child & Namaste Mandala images in ECVA's "Ubuntu" Exhibit, Summer 2009
  • Inner Journey Iowa State Fair B/W Photo Exhibition entry ('09)
  • Incarnation: Reflections on the Spirit of Dr. MeersWapsipinicon Almanac, No. 14, 2007.           
  •  "Modern Jewish Art and the Crucifixion: a Study in Appropriation." Soundings: An Interdisciplinary 
    Vol. LXXX, No. 1 (Spring 1997):133-152.
  • "Christian Theology After the Jewish Use of Christological Imagery in Holocaust Art" The
    Holocaust: Lessons for the Third Generation
    . Ed. Dominick A. Iorio, Richard L. Libowitz, 
    and Marcia S. Littell. University Press of America, 1997. 81-90.

FAVORITE THINGS: Belly laughter.  Glimpsing the holy in the ordinary and broken through an Incarnational lens.  Playfulness among family, friends, clergy, and "sports moms" on my daughter's various teams.  Being a wife and mom.  Gardening on our acreage. 

Other joys & essentials: Long distance runs along flowing Iowa fields; spiritual writing; painting and photography, and study of mystical, contemplative theology (union with God) as found in Christianity (i.e. Carmelite spirituality, Sr. Mary Margaret Funk, & Fr. Bede Griffiths)  and in Eastern traditions (The Bhavad Gita, Upanishads, & Ramana Maharshi).  Meditation and study of contemplative wisdom traditions East and West (overlapping themes of, relinquishment/non-attachment, humility, and love).