Seminary student finds her voice and calling at Briercrest

Julie Cole | Nov 18, 2013
Cathie Ostapchuk Cathie OstapchukCathie Ostapchuk

Cathie Ostapchuk sums up her Briercrest experience in one word–transformational.

“Everything kind of changed for me in the way I thought of myself and the way I thought of God and the way I thought of my future,” the 2013 seminary graduate said.

Ostapchuk says her calling was solidified during a leadership class with Paul Magnus.

“He was teaching on Stephen Covey’s book The Eighth Habit,” she explained. “Covey says ‘Find your voice and help others find their voice.’ In that moment, (I knew) that was my calling.”

Stepping into that calling was a process.

“The first step was to find my own voice,” the seminary valedictorian admitted. “For a lot of years I didn’t know what the sound of my own voice sounded like. I was a high performer in many areas and did well at many things, but it was all about performance and getting evaluated on performance. It was more about external achievement. So when I heard those words ‘Find your voice,’ it became a direction toward an internal journey saying ‘There’s somebody in here (outside of performance) who God wants me to look at and pay attention to.’”

Ostapchuk explained how this internal journey strengthened her true identity.

“(I began) to unfold and unpack what’s been there all along and then become strong in the areas I’m naturally gifted by God,” she explained. “Then it doesn’t matter if you perform or not. Your identity is in God and that’s where the security comes.”

Now that she’s found her voice, the Ontario resident is helping others find theirs by facilitating leadership development whether she’s speaking, coaching, or teaching.

“I have a vision that allows me to do all of these things, because really the bottom line is you’re just sharing your life and your experience with other people,” she said. “It can be in a coaching relationship one-on-one; it can be speaking in front of 100 women; it can be facilitating in a classroom. You’re just sharing your resources.”

Sharing her resources is a top priority for Ostapchuk. She lists four annual trips to Ghana as some of the most rewarding work she has ever done.

“You’re privileged to pass on information and resources to the women there who have so little,” she said, explaining her work there with NextLEVEL Leadership. “Because when you give them something that will inspire them to step out in confidence and change their nation, they take it and they run with it. By the time you come back the next year . . . they’ve started an organization, or they’ve collected money for books for girls from the village, or they’ve started a health clinic. They are so eager to learn and want to change and grow.”

Even though Ostapchuk continued to live in Ontario and travelled to Briercrest for modular classes, she says the community life at Briercrest impacted her.

“Even if you are a student who might be coming in, the community that you find in the class with the relationships with the professors forges a learning environment rather than forcing information,” she said. “You just want to learn it. It’s uniquely set up to welcome people at all stages of life and makes it easy for them to access the brilliant education. (That’s) very, very rare.”

Paul Magnus, distinguished professor of leadership and management, praises Ostapchuk’s accomplishments in her MA program at Briercrest.

“Not only did she excel at doing graduate education but while doing so she developed and expanded her own platform of service as a facilitator for many contexts and educational and functional leadership groups and organizations,” he said. “She is to be congratulated on the excellent outcomes of her work as a student and as a sought after facilitative group and individual, learner, leader, and coach. She has demonstrated excellence in facilitating leading and learning.”

Ostapchuk says Magnus was a key influence who forged her learning at Briercrest.

“(He’s) the mentor that enabled this transformation,” she exclaimed. “Even on the days when he hadn’t heard from me in a while, and wasn’t sure if I would actually send in any work, he would just send an encouraging email putting full confidence in my ability to finish the journey.”