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Life Lessons

Upside-Down and Backwards is the story of how a mother, who is also a chaplain, answered the call to birth a child. Having three healthy boys, Kusner believed that this child was to be a completion of a dream, the fulfillment of their family. Instead, Anna was born with genetic abnormalities and Kusner is forced to face feelings of betrayal by a God she has always trusted and promoted. Read an excerpt now from the book now.

Filled with honesty, humor and hope, Upside-Down and Backwards invites the reader to see what it's really like to live with a child who is different. Kusner does not shrink from the truth of her emotions towards her daughter but tells it "like it is" so that we can enter into her world without the social constraints of how she is supposed to feel. Her work with dying patients gives her a unique ability to ask the forbidden questions, leading us to deeper and more authentic answers about what it means to parent a special needs child.

The life lessons are for each of us, inviting us to rethink what we have seen as most important in life. It's Upside-Down and Backwards - just like Anna.


On Sunday, June 13, 2010, Mary Kay was ordained a priest by Bishop Regina Nicolosi at First Christian Church in Coralville, Iowa. She was the first woman in Iowa to be ordained by the Roman Catholic Womenpriest (RCWP) community. Almost 300 people attended to show their support and readiness for this change in the Catholic Church. RCWP is moving forward to reclaim a church that is based in gospel values, values of inclusion and justice for women, gays and all people.

Mary Kay will continue to serve as an interfaith chaplain at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics in the Palliative Care Program. She will also continue to facilitate a small faith community called Full Circle where Eucharist is celebrated on the first and third Sunday of every month.

In this photo: Bishop Regina Nicolosi, Mary Kay Kusner
Photo by: Jim Merk

Many people have sent her letters and emails of support:

Mary Kay,
You will definitely be in my thoughts and prayers tomorrow. Be brave and
know that you have the support of many, many people. -K

Hi Mary Kay,

You are on the right path and I am proud of you.

Humans are imperfect and thus have difficulty translating perfect
universal truths like love and faith into their imperfect languages
and imperfect rituals. -ES

Mary Kay:
I was so pleased to be able to attend your ordination.
I said to others that it was as moving as any I have seen.
You are the perfect person to carry this out with your
courage and pastoral acumen. I told Bonnie and Mike
that I was pleased to see so many STMore veterans
there. Always felt it a privilege to be among so many
spirited laity as there are at STM.