Director for the Office for Worship, Lesa Truxaw found her faith following her second cancer diagnosis

By Malie Hudson     1/24/2018

Lesa Truxaw’s unconventional journey to the Catholic faith and eventually to her current role as Diocesan director for the Office for Worship began when she learned that she would be facing a battle with late-stage cancer for a second time. The devastating news came a month after she married her husband at St. Boniface Church. 

“It became obvious that we needed to find a common spiritual home,” said Truxaw, who was raised in a devout Nazarene Baptist family. She and her husband, a Catholic, looked for churches that both would be comfortable in. They chose the Catholic Church.  

“I started going to RCIA but some of my experiences were not all that positive,” said Truxaw, who became intent on finding an RCIA program that she felt would respect her faith background. While shopping for RCIA processes in parishes in her area, she also began rigorous chemotherapy and radiation treatments. At about the same time, her sister-in-law, who was pregnant with her second child, asked her to be her child’s godmother, which required her to be a fully initiated Catholic, a process that could take two years.  

“With my circumstances I didn’t know if I was going to be around six months and with the urgency of the child coming, we went to St. Boniface, the church where we married,” said Truxaw.  

Truxaw and her husband met with the pastor and explained her situation. Since RCIA had not yet been mandated in 1986, she was invited to receive the sacraments within six months.  

“I was a little hesitant to tell my grandmother who was a deaconess in the Nazarene Church, that I made this decision. But her response to me was, ‘then be the best one you can be to live your faith fully in that faith tradition.’ That’s been a powerful inspiration to me,” said Truxaw. “And with God’s sense of humor, what am I doing now but overseeing RCIA for the bishop.”  

Now baptized, she was all in. She began taking classes on planning liturgies at St. Vincent de Paul parish. Signs of cancer began to disappear and she felt energized to become more involved in her new faith.  

“The RCIA director recognized that I didn’t get to experience the richness of the RCIA process so she invited me to be a sponsor and I have been involved with RCIA ever since,” said Truxaw. “The ministry is life-giving to anyone who is involved, be that a sponsor, team member, or someone who is seeking to become Catholic. It’s one of the Church’s best gifts.” 

By 1993, she was hired by St. Vincent de Paul parish to serve as RCIA director and Director of Liturgy. In 2000, she enrolled in Santa Clara University’s Master of Arts in Pastoral Liturgy program, earning her master’s degree in 2005. In 2002, retired Bishop Tod Brown hired Truxaw as director of the Office for Worship, making her the first woman and layperson to serve in the position at the Diocese.  

“Bishop Brown was very active in promoting women in appropriate leadership roles and due to his wisdom and choices in that regard, I found myself in the position that was previously held by priests,” she said. The position also entails serving as master of ceremonies for diocesan events, also a role held previously by priests. Some struggled to understand her role and expressed their frustration. “It has not been an easy journey being in this position.”  

In spite of this, Truxaw relies on her faith and trusts in the omniscience of God.  

“My position is very broad with a lot of detail and a lot of things I could be doing. So every day my morning prayer is asking for God’s help in doing His will and in focusing my work to bring about His greater glory because there are so many fun things to be involved in. This work energizes me,” said the cancer survivor. “It’s a very collaborative position and it’s important in that it allows everyone at the diocese to have a place at the table; to be included and to see themselves as being included in what we do as Church.”  

She is responsible for planning Diocesan celebrations such as ordinations and all major celebrations involving the bishop. Truxaw is also responsible for assisting the bishop with liturgical oversight for the design of new churches or renovations of churches, including, most recently, the renovation of Christ Cathedral.  

“She’s been instrumental in many committees relative to the formation of Christ Cathedral,” said Father Christopher Smith, rector of Christ Cathedral. “I want to see a cohesive effort in terms of the liturgical aspect of the life of the cathedral including the music. Sometimes in dioceses these things can be separate from one another and Lesa has been really quite eager to have a collaborative effort. She’s been very good for the Office for Worship. As a layperson, she brings the sensitivity of the person in the pew, which is a great benefit. I think that gives a great balance to our ministry here.”  

Now in her 15th year as director, she understands how valuable her work can be for others.  

“My mission has always been to facilitate people’s spiritual life through the celebration of the liturgy or RCIA or the buildings that we use for prayer,” she said. “I feel strongly that’s been my role. A lot of times it means getting out of the way and allowing God to do what God will do but it’s providing the framework formation as well as the physical celebrations or buildings to allow that relationship to exist for people and be deepened.”