After a 13-year hiatus, Joanne Gallardo has returned to Goshen College as the interim campus pastor following Gwen Gustafson-Zook’s resignation last semester.

Gallardo joins the community after working as a campus pastor at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), a counselor and case manager in Washington D.C. and a pastor of faith formation at Berkey Avenue Mennonite Fellowship.

Gallardo grew up in Wauseon, Ohio. She calls the area “very Mennonite,” but she did not grow up as a Mennonite. One of her parents was Baptist and one was Catholic. In her teen years, Gallardo grew distant from both groups. She said she started attending Mennonite Youth Fellowship soon after, when she had a friend try “really hard to convince me.”

Gallardo began attending Tedrow Mennonite Church and found the Mennonite faith to be the one for her. When it was time for her to go to college, she knew she wanted to go to a Mennonite school and was interested in music education. She began looking at Goshen College because a lot of people at her church were GC graduates. She gravitated to Goshen because of the Music Center, which had only recently been built at the time.

In her sophomore year at Goshen, Gallardo felt a call to ministry, so she became involved in campus ministry and changed her major from music education to a double major in music and Bible and religion. After college, she moved on to Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) to get a master’s degree in divinity.

Gallardo then worked in campus ministries at EMU for three years. Gallardo said her favorite part of that job was working with students who had mental health challenges who didn’t find the support that they needed from the church.

“It’s something that churches oftentimes push under the rug, you know, like they don’t want to deal with that,” said Gallardo.

Gallardo moved on from EMU and secured a job working as a case manager and counselor in Washington, D.C., where she stayed until 2017. At that point, she got a call from Berkey Avenue Mennonite Fellowship in Goshen, where she soon started working part-time as a faith formation pastor.

Earlier this school year, she was asked by Gilberto Perez, dean of students, to become interim pastor at Goshen College and to take over for Gustafson-Zook.

“The biggest difference pastoring to younger people is that people go to church for worship and to connect with God,” Gallardo said. “People go to college to get an education, but a good number of people want to grow their faith here, too. It is more secondary at a university, but I view it as very similar in that it’s figuring out how to fit Jesus into their very busy lives.”

Gallardo’s background in mental health impacts her approach to ministry.

“I’m a pastor who’s informed about mental health,” she said. “I wouldn’t call myself a professional anymore, but it definitely impacts how I try to work with people, and I’m aware of that.”

Gallardo considers herself to be a mentor, working to help people find ways to test their call and to see if religion is for them as well as leadership.

“I don’t need everyone who goes out and leaves to be a pastor,” she said. “I’m hoping that people leave here being ministry-informed leaders.”

Gallardo said that her biggest challenge so far in this position has been working with schedules, as many of those who want to be involved in ministry have many other work or school commitments.

“I think it’s really difficult to find space for God because, even if you’re doing ministry full-time, it’s hard,” said Gallardo. “I hope that students are finding time for self-care in general, where you can reflect on being a sacred child of God and reflect on being cared for by God and reflect on things that you are grateful for. I hope students find ways to connect in their own way.”

“Spirituality doesn’t need to look like I say it should, or how your professors say it should,” she said. “Faith changes throughout your life. I also want to make sure that students aren’t afraid to ask the hard questions in faith, or to question or to doubt. College is a great time to ask questions. Don’t feel afraid. Don’t be afraid to question the Bible.”

Gallardo’s office is located in Wyse 101. Her door is always open for a visit.