Local Youth & young adult

Intern has a passion for writing

Leaven intern Catherine Halbmaier (pictured above in Rome) is pursuing a journalism and mass communications degree at Benedictine College in Atchison, where she is now a sophomore. This semester, she’s studying abroad in Florence, Italy, and continuing her internship work remotely. COURTESY PHOTO

by Moira Cullings

ATCHISON — From a young age, stories inspired Catherine Halbmaier to dream big.

“For the longest time, I told myself I wanted to be a pilot,” she said. “I almost went to flight school.

“I loved the idea of being a pilot because I’ve always loved reading and writing. Some of my favorite stories featured pilots and flying.”

But ultimately, she realized it was the stories, not the flying, that captivated her interest.

Her passion for reading and writing led Halbmaier to pursue a journalism and mass communications degree at Benedictine College in Atchison, where she is now a sophomore.

It’s also given her the opportunity to intern with The Leaven for the past year.

Oh, the places she’ll go

Growing up in Dallas and attending a small Catholic high school, Halbmaier heard about Benedictine from siblings of friends who attended there. She decided to give it a chance.

“When I visited Benedictine, I really loved it — the campus and the people, the whole energy there,” she said.

The college’s journalism program intrigued her, but committing to a journalism major “was a little bit of a gamble.”

“I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into,” she said.

Yet by her second semester freshman year, she was writing articles for The Leaven and helping maintain its website and social media presence.

This semester, she’s studying abroad in Florence, Italy, and continuing her internship work.

Her favorite assignment was her first: an article published on Feb. 3, 2023, about a deacon and his wife who fled the war in Ukraine and ended up in Atchison.

“That was such a good story to have right off the bat,” said Halbmaier, “because it taught me immediately you will meet incredible people this way and also you will get to help them tell their stories to a wider audience.”

Catherine Halbmaier interviews Deacon Philip Gilbert of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, who escaped war-torn Ukraine with his wife when war broke out. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JD BENNING

Halbmaier appreciates the opportunity to contribute to The Leaven’s physical newspaper and its online presence.

“It’s great that I got to start with this internship so early on, wearing multiple hats,” she said.

She hopes to pursue a career in Catholic media but believes the experience, especially the social media side, will be pertinent to any field.

“Social media is such a driving force for so many industries today,” said Halbmaier, “but especially journalism.

“It’s been really interesting and really important because I know it will always be there as long as I am in this industry.”

The internship has also pushed Halbmaier outside her comfort zone.

“I’m naturally a pretty reserved person,” she said.

The idea of contacting people and interviewing them was daunting at first.

“I think it’s helped a lot with people skills and the courage to go up and talk to someone,” she said, “even if they’re a stranger.

“And it’s also helped me to be more adaptable, which is always something I valued.”

She’s discovered she enjoys meeting Catholics from around the archdiocese.

“You get to talk to some really interesting people,” she said, “and you get to hear their story and tell it in this very matter-of-fact way.”

Witnessing the inner workings of parishes has also been exciting.

“One of the most touching sides of the church is seeing these communities come together to create something amazing or to help someone who needs it,” she said.

“It’s been so amazing to see that side of church communities and what they’re capable of,” she continued. “It’s something that I hadn’t really personally seen before reporting on these types of things.”

Halbmaier hopes the articles she writes for The Leaven and those she shares online will give readers a glimpse into that side of the church.

“It’s such a positive thing to share with people,” she said. “And it’s such an often- overlooked part of what the church is and the church members are capable of.

“I just think it’s a really beautiful thing.”

About the author

Moira Cullings

Moira attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park and Benedictine College in Atchison. She majored in marketing, minored in psychology and played center midfield for the women’s soccer team. Moira joined The Leaven staff as a feature writer and social media editor in 2015. After a move to Denver, Moira resumed her full-time position at The Leaven and continues to write and manage its website, social media channels. Her favorite assignment was traveling to the Holy Land to take photos for a group pilgrimage in 2019.

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