A few folks have been surprised to see her in the diocesan office for deployment but the Rev. Charleen Crean believes it’s a perfect fit for a deacon with a vocation to shepherd others.
“I’m hoping people will know if there is anything they’re confused about or not sure about, they can just pick up the phone and call,” she told the Episcopal News recently. “We’re happy when people do that; open door is definitely my style. I want people to come with questions or concerns because we’re here to serve.”
She added, “Deacons bridge the church and the world and this is the perfect office to do that in. My role is to assist people along their journey.”
A former psychiatric social worker, Crean believes self-care is essential for clergy and intends to make that a priority.
“As professional people who have a presence in the community, it’s very important that we take very good care of ourselves and, really, we’re not safe to be with unless we do,” she said. “Part of what I’m hoping to do is to encourage people to find ways to care for themselves.”
In her role assisting Canon Randy Kimmler and the Rev. Canon Joanna Satorius she will also oversee diocesan aid to clergy who may need professional counseling services, and will also serve as facilitator of some Fresh Start programs, she said.
“We’re starting a pilot project with the ‘new-to-cure’ Fresh Start group, and we are going to do some clergy support groups online,” she said. “We’ll see where it goes. That’s one of the gifts and joys of this work — you’re allowed to have good ideas and run them up the flagpole and try them.”
She also serves on Sundays at All Saints Church, Pasadena, and also participates in the parish’s peace and justice ministry.
“I’ve been in an office many years as an hospital administrator and overseen the practice of many professional people and it was a wonderful time of life,” she said.
She was born in Alabama and raised in South Florida. In 2010 she moved to Pasadena from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to accept a position of clinical supervisor at Huntington Hospital Senior Care Network as a social work supervisor.
Crean has served in acute behavioral health hospitals for the past 20 years, and has specialized in mental health care. She was ordained a vocational deacon in Hawaii in 1986; she earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Hawaii.
She attended the then newly formed pilot program of the Hawaii School for Deacons. She served as chaplain at the Iolani school in Honolulu and worked on the diocesan clergy wellness committee and the committee on institutional racism.
In 1996 she moved from Hawaii to Grand Rapids, where she served on the Commission on Ministry, standing committee, and a team that formed the Oakerhater School for Deacons, and the deacon’s council. She also was one of the examining chaplains for deacons in addition to serving several parishes. She was assigned to a new church plant where she worked with laity to build a large outreach program.
Currently, she serves on the Los Angeles Diocesan Commission for Ministry and on the Deacons’ Council. Crean, 62, also serves on the board of the Bishop Gooden Center in Pasadena.
She is married to the Rev. John Crean, who is retired from full-time parish ministry but recently concluded an 18-month interim position at St. Luke’s, Monrovia. They have five children and five grandchildren.
“I’m learning the whole process as best I can,” Crean said about her new role in the diocesan deployment and vocations office. “I feel blessed and excited here and I’m looking forward to deepening my relationship with the diocese.”
She added, “I’m so delighted the bishop has [another] deacon full time on staff.” (The Rev. Dennis Gibbs of the Prism chaplaincy ministry is the other.) “I’m very happy with that. That’s another boost to our order in a lot of ways and by sitting here I can keep that order in front of others in a way that I think is important.”