Teresa Morris Kettelkamp, QU Alum from the Class of 1974

Teresa’s responses to questions related to her Heritage Award as the 2024 Bill O’Donnell Distinguished Alumni of the Year


Give a brief overview of your career – highlights of your resume including jobs and areas of service.

I was born in Chicago but raised in Des Plaines, Illinois attending St. Raymond’s grade school in Mt. Prospect then Elk Grove High School before off to Quincy College – Yes, College. I graduated in 1974 with a degree in Political Science. Joined the Illinois Bureau of Investigation which merged with the Illinois State Police detectives in 1977 – during that time I investigated white collar and public corruption cases, as well as worked undercover cases. I gradually rose through the ranks and retired as Colonel after 29 years.

I served in a number of different positions while in the ISP from Special Agent in investigations to administrative positions including Chief of Staff for the head of the Division of Investigation, Lieutenant in a Patrol district, head of the Division of Internal Investigations which investigated allegations of wrongdoing in the Executive Branch of state government; this covered all the agencies, boards and commission under the Governor to include the ISP. I retired as the head of the Division of Forensic Services which at that time was the third largest forensic lab system in the world.

I retired from the ISP for the purpose of working for the Gavin Group, Inc. in conducting the first annual compliance audits of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

In 2005, I was appointed the Executive Director of the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C. I resigned from the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection in 2011 to conduct consulting and auditing work.

Then in January of 2016, I moved to Rome to work for the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors created by Pope Francis and headed by Cardinal O’Malley of Boston, MA. My focus at the PCPM was developing universal guidelines for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults. I left this position in November of 2017, to spend more time with my family and be home for my first granddaughter’s birth. I continued to do consulting work.

In February of 2018, the Holy Father appointed me a member of the PCPM where I served as the moderator of the Working Group: “Working with Survivors.” That group’s key task was to develop a platform on which the voice of survivors of clergy abuse could be heard and enable those voices to be integrated in the global Catholic Church ministry of healing and safeguarding.

On September 30, 2022, I was reappointed by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors; it is a 5-year appointment. Cardinal Sean O’Malley, of Boston and I represent the US. The Commission is Rome based.

I was lucky to attend many specialized law enforcement and management courses throughout my career to include the FBI National Academy after which I served as the Illinois State President. I have also served on boards through the years: I was past chair of Quincy’s Board of Trustees. Mostly importantly! I have two grown children and five grandchildren.

Give some details about what is entailed in your role with the PCPM.

That is pretty much covered in the first question, but I can add that the Commission meets twice a year in Rome, and oftentimes we meet with the Holy Father. Our role is to advise the Holy Father, not investigate cases or allegations of abuse.
Specifically the Chirograph states:

“The Commission’s specific task is to propose to me the most opportune initiatives for protecting minors and vulnerable adults, in order that we may do everything possible to ensure that crimes such as those which have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church. The Commission is to promote local responsibility in the particular Churches, uniting their efforts to those of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the protection of all children and vulnerable adults.” (Pope Francis, establishing the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors – March 22, 2014.)

We do learn a lot, however, from various situations around the world and incorporate those learnings into our proposals to the Holy Father as to how to make the Church a safer place as well as how to be more responsive to and healing for victims of those in service to the Church. The Holy Father is a very caring person, especially for those who have been hurt by members of the Church or marginalized by society. He is a very protective Father.

The Commission members are divided into geographical regions to address safeguarding and victim assistance issues culturally specific to their regions. What would be effective and relatable in the United States, or many First World countries, may not even be accepted or understandable in other countries for several reasons: different norms, cultures, traditions, history and/or resources. I see that even in our own country; what works well in New York or Chicago, may not be as relatable or effective in Georgia, Wyoming, or Kansas. 

Let me share with you one short story to emphasize this point. I was at conference with several Bishops from around the world, and I ended up speaking to an African Bishop. In this conversation, I offered to come to his diocese and conduct safeguarding training. He thanked me kindly and said that his focus at that time was trying to keep his people alive during the famine from which they were suffering: to include his priests. Many countries have challenges we never face such as renegade guerillas coming into classrooms force ‘recruiting’ the entire class – how do you address that in safeguarding training? Safeguarding training in the United States was developed in response to the clergy sexual abuse problem, not for issues such as civil unrest, famine, child trafficking or the kidnapping of children. The paradigm has shifted for many of us.

Also, much Commission work is conducted during the year. The regional group to which I am assigned is the European Group since the America’s group’s focus is Central and South American. The U.S. is more aligned currently with what Europe is doing in the areas of safeguarding and victim assistance. We meet monthly, and our Moderator is Teresa Devlin who is the chief executive of the National Board for the Safeguarding of Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland.

What is the most rewarding part of your current position?

I serve in awe and am still in awe of my time working in Rome and now serving on the Pontifical Commission and traveling to Rome twice a year and sometimes more. I am humbled by those sitting around the Commission table from all over the world and literally pray all the time that God gives me the wisdom to contribute to the safety of children around the world and to help victims of sexual abuse heal. I am not a Big Dog in anything: just a person trying to use the gifts God has given me to live my faith, to help others and make positive changes that stick.

So, it is very simple: the most rewarding part of my position is being in this position at the Vatican working on helping keep children safe from harm, help heal those who have been harmed, and implementing policies and practices to make sure things are different in the future.

Tell us a little about your family.

I was born in St. Vincent’s Orphanage in Chicago and adopted at 10 days old.

It is a wonderful story: My mom and dad prayed to have children and when that did not happen, they turned to adopting. My mom, a Presbyterian convert to Catholicism, loved St. Therese of the Little Flower and prayed to her for children. Why St. Therese – who knows? Maybe St. Therese chose my mom, and my mom did not choose her?

In any event, one snowy cold day in February of 1952, in Des Plaines, Illinois, a young boy from the neighborhood knocked on my mom’s door with an armful of roses and said, “Mrs. Morris, these are for you.” My mom asked who they were from since a few ladies in the neighborhood had hothouses, and the little boy said that a lady gave them to him for my mom. She asked, “What lady?” and at that point the little boy turned around and casually said, “Oh, she’s gone.” As an aside, we did not live in a neighborhood where anyone would just walk by, plus it was cold and snowy. Our family believes “The Lady” was St. Therese of the Little Flower.

The next day or two my mom received a call from Sister Mary Alice of St. Vincent’s Orphanage saying, “We have the perfect little girl for you!” (Her words not mine). Thus, I am named Teresa Alice after Sister Mary Alice, St. Therese, and my grandmother Alice. My mom chose not to spell my name with the “h.”

For those who do not know the story of St. Therese of the Little Flower, St. Theresa said that she would spend her heaven doing good upon earth and upon her death she would send forth a shower of roses. So, when you pray to her, oftentimes you will see or receive a rose indicating that she either heard your prayer and/or your prayer will be answered. In this case, my parents’ prayer was answered. I still have these dried roses today.

I have two adult children: Katie (Shawn) who works for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in Decatur. Katie and Shawn have two girls: Taylor (6) and Nori (2). My son Zach (DeAnna) is a Sergeant with the Illinois State Police. Zach and DeAnna have three children: Beckett (7), Braelyn (5) and Brooks (1). The best job on earth is being a grandparent.

What values do you strive to live by?

This is easy, and I learned this from my parents: “Work like it depends on you but pray as if it depends on God,” then let it go. That has helped me in so many situations to accept outcomes I did not like even though I know I did my best.

I also like the phrase “God is God, and we are not, and He knows things that we do not” – remembering that when I do not understand the “Why” of a situation. I was raised by my parents who had deep faith and that was infused in me from the beginning. Their faith was not showy, it was lived, and heaven was always front and center of what we did. Not in a threatening way, but in a positive way. My faith is stronger now than it has ever been, and I wish I had stronger faith when I was younger but glad I have it now.

How did your time at QU prepare you for your professions?

College is such a formative period in a person’s life since it is the first time we live away from home and are on our own. Ethics and integrity were intertwined in our life and studies at Quincy which I carried forth in my careers. I made forever friends and learned the value of having and being a friend: that prepared me for future relationships and working together collaboratively. I found that working collaboratively with others and networking are the most effective ways to accomplish goals. And basically, I just like people: I like getting to know others, learning from others, helping others, and working with others. I think that was the general atmosphere at Quincy that built the foundation in me for the future.

Can you share a favorite memory, class, or professor from your time as a student?

I loved Mr. Evans as my Political Science Professor. He was smart, he was engaging, he was funny and just a good, nice person who I felt cared about his subject matter and the students. I regret not staying in contact with him.

Why is it important to stay connected to your alma mater and to fellow alumni?

To stay in contact with your alma mater and to fellow alumni is comparable to keeping in touch with your roots. College was the start of many new beginnings and for me: it was a safe, fun place that gave me the confidence to go out into the world and feel I could pretty much do whatever I wanted: that I did not have boundaries to my opportunities. Staying connected also gives you networking opportunities for life and in many cases invaluable help in areas in which you could use a little help or assistance. Mark Schuering and I recently sat on the same Franciscan Review Board, and I often reached out to him for his legal thoughts. He never disappointed.

Staying connected, for me, has also given me special friends for life which are true gifts and blessings. I have a group of 5 ladies (Mary Morrell Hohmann, Pam Luecke Conrad, Patti Morgan Eversgerd, Debbie Hoeffken Foote, and Sue Newton Kreke) all who I met at Quincy with whom I get together once or twice a year and keep in contact with weekly if not daily through texting. Over the last 50 years, we have been through highs and lows but have always been there for each other and for that I credit Quincy which brought us together along with the grace of God.

I would say if you do not stay connected to your alma mater and to your fellow alumni it’s a double loss: your loss for the lost networking and collaborative working opportunities along with having countless people able to help you through the ups and downs of life, and their loss of the blessing of not traveling with you during your journey through life.

My advice to all alumni is to not let this opportunity pass you by and know that it is never too late to reconnect.

Any additional comments?

I would like to share a short story about how I came to work with the Pontifical Commission, and may this encourage others to “Lean In” as Sheryl Sandberg would say.

When I heard that the Pontifical Commission was created, I had the desire to help with its establishment and work in Rome for the Vatican. I was willing to do anything; even just open the mail if that would be helpful.

I contacted a friend of mine to see what openings might be available and what my chances were. He did not know of any openings, and basically said that I didn’t have a chance: I was not a canon lawyer – and not even a civil lawyer – and on top of that, I did not speak Italian or any other language for that matter. Not very encouraging.

I thought OK, but this was really in my heart. So, I ended up emailing the Secretary of the newly created Pontifical Commission and telling him who I was, my past experiences, and that I was willing to help the Commission and even willing to move to Rome. I expected a polite thanks but no thank you response.

What I received was an email asking if I was able to meet with the President of the Commission, Cardinal Sean O’Malley in Boston about my offer, which I did, and the Cardinal basically thanked me for being willing to help out and move to Rome. Within two months, I was living in Rome and working inside the Vatican doing a job I loved.

I tell people, especially young people, to follow their heart toward their dream job even if they do not see the way to get it. Do not feel you have to wait for someone to find you and ask if you want a particular job. Decide what you would love to do with the skills God has given you and pray for a path to that job to be revealed to you. If I had waited for people who did not even know I existed to ask me to move to Rome and work, it would never have happened.