Leaders and Staff
Mother Natalie Van Kirk
The Reverend Natalie B. Van Kirk was warmly welcomed as Rector of St. Barnabas in August 2015. She holds a Bachelors of Science from Duke University, the Masters of Theological Studies from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, and she is a candidate for the Doctor of Philosophy, also from Southern Methodist University.
Natalie has served both small, pastoral size parishes and larger, resource size congregations, including St. Michael’s and All Angels, Dallas. As a member of the staff at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, she served as Canon Theologian. During her time at the Cathedral in addition to her pastoral responsibilities, she also served as Canon Missioner for Clergy Formation on behalf of the Diocese.
An educator, as well as a parish priest, she taught in the Anglican Studies Program at Perkins, acquainting students with the complexities of Anglican and Episcopal Church history, canon law, and liturgics. She has written extensively in the areas of systematic and historical theology; and her written work includes contributions to Sermons that Work, The Cistercian Studies Quarterly, and a book written with her colleagues at Perkins entitled Canonical Theism (Eerdmans, 2008). With an eye to the needs of the larger church she has also served as a reader for the Board of Examining Chaplains, which administers the national church’s ordination examination. Since arriving in Chicago, she has served as adjunct faculty at Loyola University in that school’s Institute of Pastoral Studies and she has served as clergy supply for the Diocese of Chicago.
In addition to her gifts as a priest, she has considerable business acumen, having worked as a media planner for Ogilvy and Mather and as the founder of a small business.
Mother Natalie and her husband, The Reverend Dr. Frederick Schmidt, moved to Chicago two years ago when her husband, who is canonically resident in the Diocese of Washington, was installed as the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation at Garrett‐Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston. They have four children ‐‐ three of whom live in Dallas, one of whom lives in London ‐‐ and five grandchildren ‐‐ all of whom are unspeakably wonderful and range from 2 months to five years in age.
Mother Natalie and Father Fred enjoy cooking, travel, photography, fly‐fishing, and books. During the football season they enjoy rooting for the Bears. During basketball season, Mother Natalie bleeds Duke Blue and, although he did not go to school there, Father Fred’s birthplace obliges him to pull for the Kentucky Wildcats. During baseball season they continue the Benedictine vow of stability by rooting for the Cubs.
They are here in Chicago with their Gordon Setter, Hilda, who thinks that the move to our snow covered city was a brilliant move, and they are delighted to be among us at St. Barnabas.
Carol Kraft has been attending St. Barnabas since 1973 and was ordained Deacon in 1989. She is a retired Professor of German from Wheaton College (IL).
Carol grew up in southern Michigan. She earned her B.A. from Wheaton College her first M.A. from Teacher’s College, Columbia University and a second M.A. in Germanic Language and Literature from the University of Michigan. She pursued additional studies at Middlebury College (VT) and at the Goethe Institut in Germany.
Carol’s primary focus within the parish is in Spiritual Direction and Pastoral Care. Her book Birthed by the Spirit, Meditations on Images in Prayer, represents her years of experience offering Spiritual Direction.
Carol is a member of Diakonoi, an organization which supports the diaconal ministry, and a Friend of the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge MA. She is also a member of the Steering Committee of the Wade Center on the Wheaton College campus, a major research collection of seven British authors, including G.K Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Dorothy Sayers and J.R.R. Tolkien.
Carol enjoys books, photography, travel and gardening and listening.
Mark Ramirez is the latest addition to the clergy team having been ordained to the vocational deaconate in January 2008. He and his wife Anne have attended St. Barnabas for the past ten years and have the privilege of raising their two children Grace and Nathan in this spiritually rich community of faith.
Mark is originally from the San Francisco Bay area. Though his family moved frequently, the Midwest feels the most like home (remind him of that on the 20-below wind chill days). He received his Bachelors degree in Psychology from Grand Canyon College in Phoenix, AZ. He then went on to earn a Masters in Clinical Psychology from Wheaton College.
During his graduate studies at Wheaton, he discovered the Episcopal Church while taking a Church History class by Bob Webber. The first time experiencing the liturgy was a life- changing moment. It was as if worship went from black and white to living color. He began to see the Eucharist as holy nourishment, a transformational process of helping the pilgrim take in the essence of Christ. Now being continually transformed into imitators of Christ, we are all ready to go out into the world to help reconcile a broken world back to God.
Mark has always had a heart for people. In his young adulthood he was a youth leader, camp counselor and Bible study leader. He also has done summer mission projects in northern France and central Mexico. Being a listener and encourager led him to a career as a psychotherapist and into a ministry of spiritual direction. He also enjoys teaching and mentoring students through his adjunct work at Wheaton College.
When he has a spare moment, Mark enjoys rehabbing his 1894 Victorian farmhouse. Like himself, he sees his house in the process of sanctification. Having a heart for hospitality, both he and his wife welcome guests into their home for a good meal and refreshment. As his ministry unfolds, hospitality, prayer for the healing of others and spiritual mentoring will undoubtedly be part of his ministry.
Living my first 28 years in and around Boston, I thought that I would probably spend the rest of my life in the New England area. But, life has a way of making unexpected twists and turns. My wife Dodie and I, along with our 4 month old son Nate, moved out west to the middle of Kansas. After teaching horticulture at a state prison for several years, I discerned a call to the Priesthood, and we moved back East for seminary. Over a period of 30 years, I had the privilege of serving parishes in the dioceses of Western Kansas, Nebraska, and Eastern Michigan before retiring in 2013.
Dodie, a school teacher, also retired and we decided to move to the Chicago area to be close to family. We are the proud parents of five children, and have been blessed with three wonderful grandchildren. Our favorite family vacation destination is the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Soon after moving to Wheaton, a friend invited us to a service at St. Barnabas, and we have been attending ever since. I enjoy singing in the choir and keeping active with the Outreach Commission. One day a week I volunteer with St. Leonard’s Ministries in Chicago and run with a group called “Back on My Feet,” helping men and women recently released from prison find employment and housing. The past six summers I have joined mission teams working on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
In my spare time I enjoy spending time with family, reading, sailing, doing yard work, and cheering on my favorite sports teams, the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, and Nebraska Cornhuskers.
My life has been a great journey so far, and I have to believe, God willing, the best is yet to come.
I am a child of God. A sinner, but still working on improving myself and getting to know God better. I moved to this area from the northwest side of Chicago over 20 years ago, when I was pregnant with my 3rd (last) child. After having the baby in winter, St. Barnabas advertised a “Bible Study with child care” in our subdivision’s newsletter. I was desperate for a lot of reasons, and that group was how I started my relationship with St. Barnabas. On the day my youngest started first grade, I came in to the group and asked, “Now that all three are in school all day, I wonder if the push will be on for me to get a job?” To which one of the ladies replied, “You know, we’re looking for a secretary.” I never wanted to be a secretary, but I figured: I’m asking; God’s telling. That was in 2000, and I’ve been here ever since. One thing I can truly say, “I know I’m loved where I work.”