Photo by Molly Rather
Church in the 21st Century Center Associate Director Karen Kelly Kiefer, a 1982 graduate of Boston College who has dedicated her career to creating programs that connect people to the University and to their Catholic faith, has been appointed C21 director by University President William P. Leahy, S.J. Kiefer, who will assume the post on June 1, succeeds School of Theology and Ministry Professor Thomas Groome, who has served as director since 2015.
“Karen has been a key figure in the development of our Church in the 21st Century Center since its establishment 15 years ago,” said Fr. Leahy. “She understands the mission and culture of C21, and is a person known for her faith, creativity, and ability to form effective relationships with a wide range of people, especially BC students, faculty, staff, and alumni. I look forward to working even more closely with her.”
Kiefer said she was honored to be named director and to continue the center’s work in renewing and revitalizing the Catholic Church.
"It is an extraordinary privilege and opportunity to work in collaboration with so many to create resources and conversations that help to renew our Catholic Church and shape its future," said Kiefer. "I particularly enjoy working with students to help them imagine new ways to nurture their faith and see God working in their lives.”
Established initially in response to the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, the Church in the 21st Century Center has evolved into a nationally recognized catalyst and resource for the renewal of the Church.
The center has sponsored or co-sponsored more than 500 events featuring scholars, prominent Church leaders, theologians, journalists and other experts. Its portfolio of resources include a website that is home to nearly 600 videos of C21 programs; C21 Resources magazine, and an award-winning book series.
Kiefer has been the driving force behind many of C21’s most successful programs, notably Agape Latte. A partnership with Campus Ministry, Agape Latte is a monthly faith conversation series for students set in a campus coffee house. The speaker—an alumnus, professor or administrator—tells a personal story on the intersection of life and faith that spurs students to engage in conversation and reflect on their own faith and life’s big questions. Through her stewardship and work with the C21 Student Board, regular attendance at Agape Latte events has increased to upwards of 350 students. She has also spearheaded the franchising of Agape Latte nationally to 44 colleges and universities and 13 high schools.
In 2013, Kiefer created Espresso Your Faith, a weeklong celebration where students express and reflect on their own faith lives. Through some 30 campus events, students make connections to their faith in imaginative ways.
In addition, she partnered with Vice President and University Secretary Casey Beaumier, S.J., of the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies, on the Ever to Excel program, which brings high school students to campus to experience Boston College through the lens of Ignatian spirituality. She is also managing editor of C21 Resources, coordinating the publication’s editorial content, design, and distribution.
Kiefer benefits from the C21 Steering and Advisory committees, made up of faculty, administrators, and staff, as well as from the C21 Student Board, which helps students execute creative Agape Latte programming and marketing. Under her leadership, the board has grown to 85 students.
“There are lots of minds and lots of voices involved in the creation of the center’s resources and how those resources can be that catalyst for conversation and engagement,” said Kiefer. “I think when you commit to those kinds of partnerships, you become much more fruitful.”
Kiefer expressed gratitude to the C21 leadership team that has guided the center since its inception. “I’ve been fortunate to work with [Special Assistant to the President] Bob Newton and with some great directors over the past 10 years. Tom Groome always says, ‘Our job is to ready the soil.’ For me, it is has been fun to create new ways to ready the soil.”
Kiefer began her Boston College career in 1986, working in the Office of University Advancement as director of programs and events until 1997. She planned and executed hundreds of events and was involved in the creation of several signature fundraisers, including Pops on the Heights and the Wall Street Council Tribute Dinner.
After staying home to raise a family, Kiefer returned to BC in 2008, joining C21 as assistant director. She became C21’s associate director in 2011.
Kiefer and her husband, Sam, live in Wayland, Mass., and are the parents of four daughters: McKenna '17, Madison '18, Emma '20, and Rose.
“BC has been so much a part of my life,” said Kiefer. “It is home, and I’m living a prayer. I wake up every morning and get to serve Boston College, serve my family, and serve God. That is the trifecta!”
—Kathleen Sullivan | University Communications