Bishop Karen Oliveto said she was destined to gaze up at the stars. When she was a young girl, her mother — a recent divorcée — would send her daughter to the local church every week to get some alone time. Oliveto immediately felt at home in a faith where she was told she was “unconditionally loved and accepted by God.” When Oliveto was 11, a pastor at her church asked what she wanted to be when she was older. She dreamed of being an astronomer, but he had a different idea: Had she ever considered the ministry?
“It was like my world busted open,” Oliveto said. “Where else would I want to work except where I felt love in such a tangible way and where I could pass that love on to others?”
The road to ordination was a difficult one for Oliveto. She became a student pastor at 18 and was assigned to her own church at 25, but during seminary, Oliveto had a revelation: She was a lesbian. Oliveto immediately hopped on a bus to Nova Scotia, hoping to run as far away from her discovery as possible. She cried for the first 1,000 miles of the trip. But as the bus passed through Utah, a feeling of acceptance swept over her. For the first time since enrolling in seminary, she felt connected to God.
“I learned an important thing: God never leaves us,” she said. “We leave God when we deny who God created us to be.”