Leap of faith brings minister to Carroll SOUTHEAST -- Sykesville * Eldersburg * Gamber


How does a fifth-generation Washingtonian who was raised a Catholic find herself the pastor of two United Methodist churches in Carroll County?

She took a leap of faith.

"This isn't work to me; this is living the gospel," said Mary Therese Mildred Antoinette Modesto, 37, who prefers a less formal "Reverend Terrie."

The graduate of Catholic University and Wesley Theological Seminary, who formerly lived within earshot of three fire stations, said she is enjoying the noise of locust and crickets.

On her first country assignment since her ordination three years ago, she has taken up gardening, canning and making peach butter. "My Washington friends think I have died and gone to heaven."

After she had been an associate at two Methodist congregations in Baltimore, her bishop made her the first female and the sole pastor of two county churches: Bethesda on Klee Mill Road in Sykesville and Zion on Old Washington Road in Westminster.

On Sunday mornings, she rushes between the two buildings in a car she calls her "Dixie Dumpster."

"I am usually running out the door at Bethesda with vestments flying so I can get to Zion on time," she said. "I greet one congregation and tell the other to have a good week."

She lives in the parsonage at the Sykesville church.

Though coming to Carroll was a big adjustment -- "They don't deliver Chinese here" -- she said she appreciates ministering in duplicate.

"We have a real mingling of suburban and farming communities; two of everything," she said. "The blending and sharing of different views is excellent."

She brings to her ministry a background rich in community service. Before converting to Methodism and enrolling in the seminary, she worked with delinquent youth, senior citizens and the American Red Cross.

"The different programs helped me grow," she said. "I can be of better service here because I can identify with people in crisis."

Recently, she helped her churches organize a drive to help Midwest flood victims. The congregations, which together include about 300 members, collected more than 200 gallons of bottled water and nearly $500.

"People don't have to believe the way we do, but if they are hurting we will do our best to help," she said.

Members of both churches staff the Westminster United Methodist soup kitchen once a month and donate hymnals and choir robes to needy congregations.

"Church is not just a building," she said. "We have to be the hands and feet of Christ in this world, the place God has given us charge over."

She always "felt a call to priesthood," from her earliest childhood when she "played Mass" in the back yard.

"Catholicism doesn't recognize the call of women to the ministry," she said.

After much "soul-searching and prayer," she said, she attended a Methodist service.

"It was like a lightning bolt," she said of seeing male and female pastors. "I had never before seen women reflecting the gospel in a ministerial way."

She did a little "church-shopping," asking herself if she could create a church, how would it feel.

"Methodism kept popping out in how I understand my God about church," she said. "Methodism and Catholicism are both ecumenical with communion services almost identical. We respect and borrow from each other's traditions."

Her mother, a traditional Catholic, has become one of her "staunchest supporters" and often critiques her sermons.

"She would rather I be an on-fire Methodist minister than a lukewarm frustrated Catholic," she said. "We are all worshiping the same God."

Her extended family includes many priests and nuns who have (( accepted her decision. Most attended her ordination. "A church is not a church if it is a self-serving private club. The only thing I want to exclude is exclusion."

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