Mother's love of Lord led Anglican pastor to ministry

The Rev. Wolfgang Krismanits is the pastor at St. James Anglican Church.
The Rev. Wolfgang Krismanits is the pastor at St. James Anglican Church. Modesto Bee

The Rev. Wolfgang Krismanits has something in common with Gov. Schwarzenegger -- both were born in Graz, Austria.

But the pastor of St. James Anglican Church, the historic Red Church in downtown Sonora, moved to the United States when he was 5 months old, long before the governor started lifting weights.

Krismanits' father was a printer and bookbinder who found work in Moline, Ill. Krismanits, 55, grew up swimming competitively and played the viola from about fifth grade until his senior year in high school, when he switched to the guitar.

That senior year, he said, was difficult. He had problems with teachers and coaches -- a math teacher expressed doubts Krismanits would "make it in the world" and an English teacher planned to fail him until "I literally got down on my knees and begged her for a 'D.' "

Then, days after his graduation, his 40-year-old mother died of a cerebral hemorrhage. It was a huge loss, he said.

"My dad was very strict, very stubborn," said Krismanits. "My mother was very loving. She's why I went into ministry. She just loved the Lord. If no one else was on their knees, she was."

Here's more information:

Family: Krismanits was one of four sons. His mom "was a great housewife." He's been married to LaDonn, 46, for 25 years. Their children are Paul, 24; Stephen, 22; Sonja, 19; and Summer, 10.

Education: Bachelor's degree in physical education with a minor in biological sciences from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale; master of divinity degree from Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Nashotah, Wis.

Career: After college graduation, worked as swim coach at the local YMCA. "By way of a miracle, I ended up at St. Jude's Ranch in Nevada for neglected, abused or abandoned children, working as a relief house parent, counselor and developing athletics program for the kids." After seminary, worked as curator (assistant to the rector) at Trinity Episcopal Church in Covington, Ky., for two years. Returned to St. Jude's Ranch as assistant to the director. In 1989, became rector at St. James. Friday marked his 19th anniversary there.

Future: "I'm trying to become a published author." He's writing a fiction book in the genre of "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Chronicles of Narnia," with talking animals and theological underpinnings. He's also working on a nonfiction book.

Greatest challenge: "Getting this church back out of debt. We've really taken a large hit in this struggle with the national (Episcopal) church. It's been a horrendous three or four years."

Greatest passion: Krismanits is working with pastors from eight other churches to establish Lighthouse Ministries, which they hope will include establishing a shelter for the homeless and services to the poor in their communities.

Personality: "I'd rather read in a corner or watch a movie with my family than go out to a party. I love silent retreats. But I love people, too. When I'm around a lot of people, I've learned to have fun."

Spare time: My wife and I love watching movies together. I swim three times a week. But my big thing is golf; I try to get out there once a week. I also love fishing. I love to read novels.

"Leading the Way" runs twice a month and profiles faith leaders -- ordained and lay -- in our community. To suggest someone, send the name and contact information to Sue Nowicki, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352-5256 or e-mail snowicki@modbee.com.