KIRKLAND – For 28 years, Jan Kline taught youth at St. John Mary Vianney Parish about the importance and hard work of helping people in need.
“Her heart is for the poor and needy,” said Father Vu Tran, pastor of the Kirkland parish. “She’s a prophet for the poor.”
Kline organized annual Esperanza International trips to Mexico, where parish teens help build homes for families in need. That program “has resonated in our parish community,” said Kline, who recently retired as St. John Vianney’s youth and outreach minister to care for her husband.
A parishioner at St. John Vianney since 1979, Kline helped run vacation Bible school and the first Communion program before beginning the outreach ministry.
“It was fun. She was a very outgoing, super-extroverted person,” said Margie Berard, the parish’s pastoral assistant for administration. “She had amazing ideas, amazing energy and amazing faith.”
Photos of the people Kline encountered during her tenure at St. John Vianney plastered the walls and ceiling of her office. “Her room was a constantly changing scrapbook,” Berard said.
Father Jay DeFolco, pastor at Holy Cross Parish in Lake Stevens, hired Kline when he was pastor at St. John Vianney. “She had a fantastic vision on how to engage and inspire youth,” he said.
The Esperanza program at St. John Vianney got its start in 1991, when Kline’s daughter Sarah participated in the program through a partnership with St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Federal Way. Kline said Sarah wanted St. John Vianney’s participation to continue, so Kline organized her parish’s first trip to Tijuana in 1992. The kids raise money to pay for their trip through fundraisers such as Christmas tree and bake sales, Kline said.
As the years went on, more parishioners participated in Esperanza and the program grew: A college students’ group organized in 1996 and an adult group formed in 2000, Kline said.
“Jan has been at the forefront of many social justice programs and outreach to the poor,” Father DeFolco said.
Under her leadership, the parish expanded the ways it helped those in need. The parish participated in the Youth Migrant Project, a summer program that brings Catholic youth to the Skagit Valley to serve migrant farmworker families. Kline has served as a board member for the program, which began in Lynden in 1980s.
St. John Vianney’s junior high group has participated in a program to feed homeless people in Seattle and hosts a Christmas celebration for Bridge Disability Ministries, a group that Kline said connects the special needs community and caregivers with church, families and communities.
In retirement, Kline is continuing her participation in Water Access Now, a nonprofit that is working to improve access to clean water in Ghana.
Kline’s energy and enthusiasm earned her the nickname “The Wind,” said Laura Stanger, St. John Vianney’s pastoral assistant for children and family ministry, who worked with Kline for 20 years. “She comes in quickly and never stops moving.”