by Audrey Riley.
On January 29, 1499, a little girl was born in Saxony, not far from the city of Leipzig, Germany. No one could have foreseen that she would live on in the hearts of her sisters in faith for centuries to come—but that’s what happened.
Little Katharina von Bora grew up to marry Martin Luther, but that’s only part of what makes her so appealing to women today.
Thanks to her convent training, Katie was familiar not only with theology and the life of faith, but with the ins and outs of managing a bustling household that was always ready to welcome guests—from princes and professors to poor relatives, not to mention students. Martin’s theology students at the University of Wittenberg were always eager to move into Lutherhaus!
Dinner conversation around the Luthers’ table was the main attraction, of course, but another attraction might have been that Martin didn’t charge for room and board. Neither did he accept payment as he traveled, lecturing, preaching and debating. And Martin loved to give to the poor, for as he said, “God put fingers on our hands for the money to slide through them so God can give us more. Whatever a person gives away, God will reimburse.”
Martin earned a good salary teaching and preaching in Wittenberg, but even so, the expenses of Lutherhaus and Martin’s ministry always ate it up—and then some. How could the household and the ministry stay afloat? Martin himself said that if he had to take care of the building, brewing and cooking, he’d surely die.
No worry about that with Katie around. She was an expert household manager, as well as a steward of the Luthers’ financial life. She bought and sold land and livestock, crops and kegs of beer, always looking out for good bargains. Her wise and careful stewardship allowed him to keep on traveling and preaching and persuading right up to the end of his life, 18 years after marrying the woman he called the Morning Star of Wittenberg.
Good stewardship means striking a balance between taking care of our ministry and ministering to others. When we send our offerings and gifts to Women of the ELCA, we are taking care of our ministry—just as Katie Luther took good care of the ministry centered at Lutherhaus.
Those general offerings and gifts take care of the general part of our ministry together, and Women of the ELCA has other ways to take care of other ministries—including the special fund we named after our beloved Katie. Katie’s Fund has two parts: an endowed fund from which interest and income may be used while the rest grows and a current fund that may be used the same way. Both parts support Women of the ELCA’s initiatives in leadership development, living theology and global connections. Recent Katie’s Fund projects include sending a dozen diverse young women from our church to the Holy Land on a journey of accompaniment and discovery with the ELCA’s Global Mission and Young Adult Ministry program, Peace Not Walls. It changed their lives—and as they share what they learned with the rest of the church, our lives are changed, too.
To learn more about Katharina von Bora and our Katie’s Fund endowment—and how you can support it— visit welca.org/katiesfund.
Audrey Riley is the director of stewardship for Women of the ELCA.