Year Attended: 2016

Location: St. Paul, MN

Job Title: President and Co-Founder

Education: Franciscan University of Steubenville

Degree: Catechetics and Theology

Organization: Eden Invitation

Anna Carter

“In the beginning and the end, I’m left with my heart. Who did I become? How was I transformed more and more to the likeness of Christ? How did my gifts – unique and unrepeatable – flower in the life God gave me?”

Please share a little about yourself – feel free to include a fun fact!

I’m a Midwestern woman who pines for mountains, desert, and sea. Also the pines! But we at least have those here. I read voraciously and have a spreadsheet catalogue of my books. If we ever meet in person, I guarantee I’m taller than you expect.

Describe your professional work. How were you led to this? What are you passionate about?

Minus a few summers in a bakery and a few short-lived weeks as a pizza delivery driver, my entire resume consists of work in the Church. I’ve been a missionary, theology teacher, campus minister, faith-based copywriter…I’m in too deep now for anything else! In all seriousness, there has been a long calling to self-gift in service to the Church, particularly in a truth-telling and relationship-building capacity. Now, with Eden Invitation, we’re focusing on a population that’s fairly marginalized, even within the Church: people experiencing same sex desires or gender discordance. It’s part of my own story as well. I’ve just seen too many people leave over this over the years. I desperately want us to thrive in the Church!

What are the personal strengths that you’ve been given and how do you utilize them?

I’ve always been a bold doer and a ringleader. I have a knack for recognizing gaps in ministry and pastoral care, along with the creative problem solving to step up. I have very little hesitation to dive in and start something. I’ve seen these tendencies come to bear throughout my life via initiating new ministries or pastoral resources…and being a very thorough vacation planner!

What women inspire you, and why?

There are plenty of fierce lady saints that I admire – St. Catherine of Siena, St. Edith Stein, St. Teresa of Avila, Judith of the Old Testament being just a few. But I’ll switch it up here with Leslie Knope. She’s the main character of the NBC show “Parks and Recreation.” While there are elements of her ideology that I don’t align with, I can’t help but admire her tenacity. So much of the deck seems stacked against her, yet she shows up to her mission – day in and day out – with a positive attitude and an attentiveness to her teammates. She reminds me that women in tune with their own strengths and giftedness really can make a difference in the world.

Are there friends and mentors that you depend upon? How do they support you?

Absolutely! I believe very firmly in having at least a couple close friends who know everything. The down and dirty. The real stuff. Especially when you’re in public ministry, there can be a strong temptation to perform. These friends know the big picture. They love me anyway and they can speak truth in a way no one else really can. I struggle with vulnerability, so I’m still integrating the value of mentorship. But, I can say that the more I’m able to admit my deficiencies and seek relationships with those who are “further along,” the better I am!

What is the best advice/encouragement you’ve received about vocational discernment?

At first I thought it sounded cliche: “where you’re called has been inside you all along.” It can be so easy to think of vocation as “out there,” as something beyond the horizon you can only grasp when God deigns to part the heavens for you. But the more I’ve leaned into my story – my childhood passions, my lifelong strengths, even my particular “brand” of concupiscence – the more I’ve grown in clarity of who I am and where I’m called to be in the present moment.

Prayer is essential for everyone, but especially for women who are active in the life and mission of the Church. Do you have any favorite devotions or prayers?

I tend to veer towards lectio divina or Ignatian meditation in my prayer. I’m very “go-go-go” in daily life. Having an opportunity to rest with the Lord is critical.

Do you have a favorite inspirational quote?

That which seems to us to be a crumbling point, a lack, a thorn in the flesh, is destined for God’s glory as surely as the rotting bones of Lazarus, as surely as the radiance of Mary of Nazareth.” – Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God

What were your key takeaways from the GIVEN Forum?

I settled on a career trajectory of “ministry” at age 15. My original GIVEN plan was a young adult novel, and I think I needed that pause! The GIVEN forum helped me to remember who I am. The measure of my “success” isn’t how much I’ve achieved for God or even how many people I’ve helped encounter Him. In the beginning and the end, I’m left with my heart. Who did I become? How was I transformed more and more to the likeness of Christ? How did my gifts – unique and unrepeatable – flower in the life God gave me?

What was your GIVEN action plan? Describe its mission, audience, and impact.

Soon after the GIVEN forum, the Holy Spirit stirred a new calling in my heart; the calling that would become Eden Invitation. We create community and formation for disciples experiencing same sex desires or gender discordance. My action plan was our initial launch as a website connecting people to resources. Since then, we’ve received close to five hundred stories at conferences or online via video chat. We’ve provided retreats and small groups for young adults across the country and have a sustained digital community. We’re continuing to grow by creating new resources and establishing local groups. My co-founder, Shannon Ochoa, also attended the GIVEN Forum in 2019!