Diocesan Tribunal Hires New Leader

We are excited to announce that Kelly O’Donnell is the new Director of the Tribunal for the Diocese of Shreveport. Kelly joins us with a wealth of both life and canon law experience and is eager to bring both with her to her new job and adventure in the South.

Raised in Bakersfield, California in a strong Catholic family with two younger brothers and two younger sisters, Kelly’s parents instilled the importance of family and faith in her from a young age.

Kelly pursued a Master’s degree in International Affairs with an emphasis in International Business, spending two years of her education in Spain. She later taught Spanish at the university level.

It was divine intervention though that led her on her canon law journey. In August of 1985, Kelly’s mother handed her a copy of the Catholic Digest and told her she thought she would be interested in the story it contained. Kelly read about Laurie LeFave, the first female lay woman judge in the United States who worked for the Diocese of Dallas. Kelly called her up and talked to her about her ministry. Within two weeks of the phone call with Laurie, Kelly found herself in Rome studying both Italian and canon law.

Following many years of study, Kelly was the first lay woman to graduate with a doctorate from the Pontifical University Antonianum in 1992.

Since receiving her canon law degree, Kelly has worked with a number of Catholic dioceses across the country. Most recently, she worked for the Diocese of San Diego as their only full time canon lawyer in the tribunal.

Through her work, Kelly has witnessed the pain and emotional turmoil that naturally follows in the path of those seeking annulments and emphasized the importance of being a confidential supporter of the couple as they seek healing and the Church. Fluent in Spanish, Kelly can also work on cases directly with Spanish-speaking individuals and give workshops in Spanish.

Kelly hopes to bring that same life affirming work with her to the Diocese of Shreveport, both in her consultant capacity as a canon lawyer on Church affairs, and as an assistant and compassionate worker to those seeking an annulment in the Catholic Church. She also emphasized that she hopes to carry on the great work Sr. Marilyn Vassallo, former Tribunal Director, did over her many years of service to the Diocese of Shreveport.

“The Tribunal is one of the most vital organs, the heartbeat of every diocese,” said Kelly.  “A lot of times we’re asked to give an opinion on something. We [the canonists] always have to think about the last Canon in our code, 1752, what we’re doing is for the salvation of souls. And sometimes we have to remind other people when we’re making the opinion, you really have to discern and pray that there are lives involved, souls involved. I’m going to have to face God too, so it better be the best decision and not made lightly or made in a quick manner.”

You can reach Kelly by contacting the Catholic Center at 318-868-4441, or by e-mail, kodonnell@dioshpt.org.

by Jessica Rinaudo, Editor

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