Updated: Dec 12, 2022
By Steven Bonini
Kristelle Angelli is known to many people as the Catholic chaplain for the University, but what they may not know is Angelli wasn’t always a follower of the Lord.
At one point in her life, Angelli considered herself an atheist and was a stark challenger of the belief in God.
Growing up, she was raised a non-practicing Catholic and said she had a limited faith in God, but aside from her grandparents and a few friends, there were not many heavily religious figures in her life.
It was when Angelli was 11 years old that she began to examine her faith after listening to a vinyl record of the musical, “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
“It’s [the musical] completely theologically incorrect,” she said. “But the music’s really good.
“I listened to that and something in my 11-year-old brain said, ‘I need to figure out, do I believe in God? If I do, I should probably take it seriously. If I don’t, then it doesn’t matter,’” she added.
Angelli said she decided to believe in God. Soon she began walking to her local church to attend Mass regularly.
It was during her sophomore year of high school that Angelli’s faith began to fall apart once again, she said.
“I just had a lot of questions and a lot of my world sort of became chaos, and I just didn’t feel like God could really exist,” she said.
With the feeling of loneliness and a lack of order in the world, Angelli said she saw God as a “crutch” for people to “lean on,” and rejected the Catholic Church and the idea of a higher power altogether.
Even so, her faith wouldn’t be gone for long.
It was during her junior year at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont where she was a journalism major, that her fascination with God would be revitalized.
Angelli said she took a feature writing class in which the professor asked the students to write in a journal every night.
“I was at the end of the semester, and I hadn’t kept up with it,” she said. “So, I started backdating all these entries, and I needed some creative things to write about, so I decided to write a letter to God telling him all the reasons why I didn’t believe He existed.
“That’s sort of the moment where it feels like things started to change,” she added.
During her second semester junior year, Angelli said she studied abroad in the city of Aix-en-Provence, France, and joined a “young adult Catholic group.”
Joining the group was meant to be a fun way for her to meet people, she said, but it also gave her the opportunity to go on a retreat to the island of Lérins, off the coast of Cannes.
On the island was a monastery with a chapel inside, she said, and while kneeling in the chapel, she “felt God,” but not in an “intellectual” way – an “experiential” way.
“It was a powerful experience,” she added.
From there, Angelli said she started “rethinking” her faith, praying regularly, and asked God for signs of his existence, which she said He provided.
A lot of people’s experience with God is intellectual as opposed to experiential, she said. Angelli offered an example of a student she knew while working as a campus minister at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who read the Catholic Catechism cover to cover and said, “‘It makes perfect sense – I want to be Catholic!’”
Angelli said for her, “It was very much at the heart,” adding, “I had to know I wasn’t alone – that God was with me, and that just because my world got chaotic when I was a kid – and it didn’t seem like the adults knew what they were doing – didn’t mean that there was no God who didn’t know what He was doing.”
Coming out of college, Angelli said her faith only continued to grow and she decided to combine journalism and Catholicism, starting a job at an ecumenical Christian news publication on the North Shore.
Eventually, she left her position with the publication and got her master’s in ministry from St. John’s Seminary in Brighton – dedicating her life to helping others – especially young students – find their faith in the Catholic Church.
On the bookshelf of Angelli’s FSU office, a plaque sits engraved with the aphorism – “Live in such a way that those who know you, but don’t know God will come to know God because they know you.”
From Emerson College to MIT, and eventually to FSU, she worked as a Catholic minister for the archdiocese and presented herself to different universities in need of a chaplain.
The best part of being a minister, she said, is “seeing students take their faith and make it their own during college.
“That’s always really rewarding,” she added.
Angelli said taking students on their own faithful journey is really important, adding, “Obviously, it looks different for every person, but also, there’s the idea of sort of stepping back and watching what God does in someone’s life. That’s a really interesting thing!”
A big part of her role, she said, is helping students open their faith in a way they hadn’t been able to do before in their lives.
Angelli said, oftentimes, when students are in middle school or high school, they may be taught about their faith in a simpler way, but when they get to college, their minds are developing much faster – allowing her to open up the “mysteries of the church” to those who seek her knowledge.
In terms of her own faith, Angelli said there are many aspects of being Catholic she enjoys, especially “the depth of the faith.
“God is eternal,” she said. “And we’re finite,” adding, “There’s always more with God. There’s always a deeper understanding. There’s always more of His love to receive.”
Additionally, Angelli said one of the best parts of being Catholic is journeying through the faith and healing along the way.
She said, “especially in our time now,” during this period of uncertainty, God “heals you and then you can understand more, and you can see more, and you can feel more and receive more of His love. It’s what we’re made for.”
Outside of her role as a religious leader, Angelli does independent writing and has one book published under her name and 14 books published under a pen name.
Under her own name, she said she writes religious fiction stories and under her pen name, she writes “cozy mysteries.”
Her books are a Hallmark mystery, she said, appealing to “women who are older.”
She said after leaving the journalism field, authoring books was her way to “get back to writing.”
One of the books she authored is “Agnes’ Gift,” which is “about a teenager who is going through a faith crisis and encounters her guardian angel who takes her back in time to go through all the mysteries of the Rosary. She sees the mysteries of God’s life in light of her own struggles,” said Angelli.
There are many other passions in Angelli’s life as well – one of them being Taekwondo, in which she holds a third-degree black belt.
Outdoor activities are also enjoyable, she said, including skiing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and snowshoeing.
All these things aside, Angelli said she prays to God about when the best time to retire from campus ministry might be.
“I don’t usually think that far ahead,” she said. “When I first started out, I sort of felt like the older sister of the students, and then it hit a point now where I could very easily be their mom.
“The dynamics do change a little bit,” she added. “You know, each stage in life, you have something that you can offer that you couldn’t before, so you just readapt.”
She said the timing of her retirement will depend on God and His plans, adding that’s something she tries to “discern” every year.
Still, it is Angelli’s time spent with students where she believes she makes her greatest impact.
Jeff Merisier, a senior biology major and member of the Catholic student group, said he met Angelli in 2019 after transferring from Fitchburg State University.
He said her leadership has played a big role in helping him grow his faith in the Catholic Church.
“Over these past liturgical years, she has guided us through a wide selection of spiritual exercises from different religious orders ranging from Biblical Lectio Divina to the Ignatian Examen. I have benefited greatly from all of these gems,” he said.
Merisier said there are many words he could use to describe Angelli, but ultimately the qualities that come to mind are caring, dedicated, and inspirational.
It is because of Angelli’s leadership and her knowledge of the faith – Mersier said he has decided to become a faith leader himself.
In addition to their faith meetings, Merisier said he enjoys being with Angelli and the Catholic student group because of the leisurely activities they engage in together.
Activities have included Kahoot games, apple picking, and their monthly pizza and prayers meetings, he said.
“The monthly pizza and prayer meetings are always very nourishing to both the body and soul,” he added.
What he enjoys the most, though, is “having had priest friends come and celebrate Mass” with them throughout the year and “imposing ashes” on Ash Wednesdays.
Merisier said Angelli allows the students to initiate a lot of what the group does, and that to him is very important.
“Kristelle is always open to our ideas and our suggestions,” he said. “The events for the semester are decided through surveys and these decisions are then finalized in planning meetings to which every member of the group is welcome to attend.”
Ultimately, Merisier said, “Catholic Campus Ministry has always served as a beacon of hope,” adding, “I speak for myself in expressing my gratitude for Kristelle’s presence on campus, and I know that these sentiments are shared by all the members of the group.”