As the assistant director of the Newman Catholic Center at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Jeff Klein, 36, continues to stay in touch with his religious roots established in St. Marys and honed through the local Catholic school system.
"I do a little bit of everything, but the things that occupy most of my energy would be counseling and leadership development of college students," Klein said of his duties at UPenn, where he is now in his fourth year. "I enjoy being a positive influence in the lives of young people."
Klein is a 1992 graduate of Elk County Christian High School and a 1996 graduate of Allegheny College. He went on to obtain a master of arts in Pastoral Ministry from Duquesne University in 2002.
He is the son of Jim and Gail Klein of St. Marys and is the older brother of Danielle Klein Bergez.
"I was active as a leader in campus ministry as an undergraduate at Allegheny College, and it was a key part of my college experience," Klein said. "I'd never planned on a career in the Catholic church, but after college I worked for one year as a youth minister with grades 7-12 in Fairview (near Erie). "That was a good experience, but I felt I really wanted to work with college students, so I did a master's degree at Duquesne."
According to Klein, much of his master's work consisted of theology training along with additional psychology, counseling and communication courses. Completing his coursework in 1999, Klein has been working as a full-time campus minister since that time. In the past, he has worked at such universities as Saint Mary's University of Minnesota, Niagara University and Villanova University.
"I often say that the work of campus ministry is something you'll either love or hate, because the hours are long and having a balanced lifestyle that includes recreation and a social life can be a challenge. But for those of us who love it, it's all worth it," Klein said.
Currently Klein is serving as the chair of the executive board of the Catholic Campus Ministry Association (www.ccmanet.org ), a national professional organization.
"It's been a great experience serving at the national level and interacting with campus ministers -- as well as bishops and university presidents -- from all parts of the country," he noted.
Additionally he serves on the executive committee for a national initiative known as ESTEEM -- Engaging Students to Enliven the Ecclesial Mission (www.esteemleadership.org ) -- which is a joint project of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management and the Saint Thomas More Catholic Center and Chapel at Yale University.
Klein explained the purpose of ESTEEM is to encourage college students active in campus ministry to continue to be active in the Catholic church, especially in leadership capacities, once they have graduated and entered into the professional world.
"It's not that I couldn't see myself doing anything else, but I can't imagine anything else that would give me the same level of job satisfaction I have in campus ministry," Klein said. "For anyone else who is interested in doing this, give it a shot. When I was younger I always saw myself doing something prestigious or lucrative, things my current occupation will never be, but once I committed to it I was hooked."
Among the factors which Klein feels has contributed to his career success are being blessed with great mentors through every stage of his educational and professional career, from Elk Christian to college to graduate school to the early years of his career.
"I really enjoy the urban atmosphere of Philadelphia, but there's no doubt that my values and personality were shaped by growing up in St. Marys," Klein said. "Though my professional development has been elsewhere, I've really benefited from the support of a great family as well as the great Catholic community and local community in St. Marys. My parents and extended family still live there and it's great to come back and visit a few times a year."
Klein explained that he has fond memories of Queen of the World, both the parish and school, from his years living in St. Marys. Outside of work, he enjoys playing rhythm guitar, specifically rock, classic rock, some folk and a bit of blues.