Advocate is passionate about new life-issues role - Catholic Courier
Suzanne Stack is the new life-issues coordinator for the Diocese of Rochester. Suzanne Stack is the new life-issues coordinator for the Diocese of Rochester.

Advocate is passionate about new life-issues role

On June 24 Suzanne Stack became the Diocese of Rochester’s life-issues coordinator, succeeding Jann Armantrout, who retired in May after 14 years in the role.

The path that led to her new position may have been long and winding, but Stack said she knows God has been guiding her the whole way.

"It just really felt like it was meant for me," Stack told the Catholic Courier.

Stack, 52, is passionate about her new role and excited about the opportunity to draw upon her past experiences. A Rochester native, Stack attended St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Irondequoit as a child before becoming involved with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, an evangelical and interdenominational campus program, while earning her undergraduate degree in elementary education at Buffalo State College. She continued to volunteer with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship even after she graduated and moved to New York City to work for New York Public Interest Research Group, which is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that researches and advocates on issues related to such concerns as environmental protection, higher education, government reform and public health.

Working for NYPIRG gave Stack her first taste of advocacy work, which turned out to be something she enjoyed.

"It made me feel like I was making a difference in someone’s life," she said. "The thing I like about advocacy is you’re making a difference systemically, not just for one person."

After five years with NYPIRG, Stack left the organization and took on a campus ministry position with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. While working in campus ministry Stack took a few theology classes, which whet her appetite for more. She decided to pursue a graduate degree in theology, but before doing so she returned to Rochester to help her brother and sister-in-law care for their newborn triplets and their four older children.

"It was during that time I ended up returning to the Catholic Church," Stack recalled.

In January 2000, six months after returning to the Catholic Church, Stack began her graduate theology studies at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. Stack’s mother, who had been staunchly pro-life, passed away in 2001. Stack hadn’t shared her mother’s fervor about pro-life issues, but her mother’s death prompted her to re-examine her stance.

"I had to do something pro-life in her honor," she explained.

Stack joined Feminists for Life, and her pro-life views strengthened and solidified as she learned more about the issues.

As her graduation from the Dominican House of Studies drew nearer, Stack began to look for a position in parish ministry in the Diocese of Rochester.

"I made sure to always look for positions that included RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) and adult faith formation, because that was big for me, especially coming back to the church," Stack said. "I think that’s part of why I picked parish ministry, … because I had come to appreciate the Catholic faith so deeply and wanted to help others do the same, and grow in their faith."

Stack was hired as the faith-formation director at Rush-Henrietta Catholic Community, where she also served as a pastoral associate. In the meantime, she also joined Feminists for Nonviolent Choices, which formerly was the New York state chapter of Feminists for Life, and she made several trips to Albany with the group to lobby for pro-life legislation. She also became involved with the 40 Days for Life campaign and started volunteering at Focus Pregnancy Help Center in Rochester.

In 2011 Stack left Rush-Henrietta Catholic Community and became faith-formation director at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Brockport. She traveled to Albany several times for the New York State Catholic Conference’s Public Policy Day, and last March she led a delegation of local Catholics who encouraged state Sen. Ted O’Brien to oppose the Women’s Equality Act, which the Catholic conference said would expand abortion in New York. The experience reminded Stack how much she enjoyed advocacy work, and she realized she wanted to do more of it. Just a few weeks later, Stack learned of Armantrout’s retirement and the diocesan search for a new life-issues coordinator.

"I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is perfect!’" she recalled. "I didn’t even know I wanted it until I saw it."

In her new role Stack, who currently is working toward a master of divinity degree at St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry in Pittsford, said she hopes to help Catholics of all ages better understand Catholic social teaching, which she said connects social-justice issues with pro-life issues. She wants to help develop a pro-life curriculum for both Catholic schools and parish faith-formation programs.

"I’m really passionate about our church’s social teaching. I think it’s important to start with our kids and really help them understand our fundamental understanding of the dignity of human life, and why we have the stance we do on issues that relate to human life from conception to natural death," Stack said.

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