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Ellen Salmi van Cleef and Joshua van Cleef: Missionaries Rooted in Presence

“The mess and the beauty are really tied together.”
– Joshua van Cleef

Season 4, Episode 5 of Messy Jesus Business podcast, hosted by Sister Julia Walsh.



In this episode of Messy Jesus Business, Sister Julia Walsh talks with Ellen Salmi van Cleef and Joshua van Cleef about how they became missionaries serving in Eastern Kentucky, and what being a missionary today is all about.

“I feel really blessed that the way that I learned what being a missionary was, was really rooted in presence,” Ellen explains, “in being present to people and in being present to God and God’s voice in your life.”

They discuss how Catholic imagination challenges the ability for lay people to lead, serve and animate the Gospel in the ways that they are called. They reflect upon how serving in a rural environment invites people to contemplation, and how observing beauty directs us toward God. And, they explore the mess as a natural part of Gospel living,  and how God is with us in the mess of life and service.

“The mess and the beauty are really tied together,” said Joshua. “And that’s my experience of being a missionary, especially here, and in my own life too. Because God’s in here with me in the mess, then the beauty is right there too, and they’re bound in some way.”


Ellen Salmi van Cleef and Joshua van Cleef serve as missionaries in Eastern Kentucky. In 2016, they were installed together by the Bishop John Stowe OFM, to lead a small Appalachian parish in the absence of an ordained pastor. Ellen recently started serving as Associate Director of Evangelization for the Marist Brothers, and Joshua leads the parish as Parish Life Director. He also serves the diocese as the Director of the Peace and Justice Office. This May, Ellen and Joshua became parents to their first child, Joy. They live in a log cabin on 50 acres in the mountains, and share the property with lots of chickens, cats, and other creatures.

Contemplative moment is a reading from Luke 4:16-21.

MESSY JESUS BUSINESS is produced and hosted by Sister Julia Walsh, and edited by Charish Badzinski.

Email us at messyjesusbusiness@gmail.com




Twitter: @messyjesusbiz



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