GETTYSBURG, PENN (SZS) — Tuesday night, the Rev. Wilma S. Kucharek, Bishop of the Slovak Zion Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. The award was presented for Service in Specialized Ministry. Two additional awards were also presented for other honorees: one for Service in Parish Ministry and the other for Celebrated Lifetime Ministry.
The award was presented during a program in the seminary’s Chapel of the Abiding Presence on April 28th, 2015 with a banquet preceding the presentation. The Rev. Susan McCarthy, President of the LTSG Alumni Council, opened the occasion with a welcome, followed by a greeting from the Rev. Dr. Michael Cooper-White, President of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. The Rev. William Diehm toasted the honorees at the banquet and introduced them individually for the presentations. Some of the many statements received by the review committee for this award included: “People know she cares about them, whether a lay person or a pastor—they know she is readily available.” “She has regularly supported congregations in Slovakia in their mission projects, and individuals in their personal social need.” Jerry Owen, Vice President of the Slovak Zion Synod wrote: “I know of no one more dedicated to her ministry than Bishop Kucharek.” Following the presentation of her award, Bishop Kucharek recalled examples of how her seminary formation has informed her ministry over the years.
Bishop Kucharek received a Master of Divinity degree from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 1982. She also earned her Master of Sacred Theology degree there, becoming notably only the third woman pastor in the Lutheran Church in America (predecessor body to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) to receive an STM. In addition to serving calls to congregations within the synod, Bishop Kucharek’s service has included: Secretary of the Board of ELCA’s Division for Global Mission, Chair of the Synod’s Ecumenical and International Relations Committee, member of the National Council of Churches’ Task Force for Korean Women, and as a member of the Board and Disaster Response Team of the American Red Cross. She has served on delegations to the Lutheran World Federation, North and South Korea, the Holy Land, Russia, and Central and Eastern Europe. In addition to her other duties, she serves on the Board of Trustees of Muhlenberg College and is the advisory bishop from the ELCA’s Conference of Bishops to the Board of the Women of the ELCA. She was re-elected to a third term as Bishop of the Slovak Zion Synod in 2014 with 97% of the vote; an overwhelming vote of confidence in her ability and dedication to ministry.