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Iona Collaborative Alumni Spotlight: The Rev. Deacon Anita Ware

First Graduate of the Diocese of Western North Carolina Iona Program

In January 2010, the Rev. Deacon Anita Ware was ordained as a vocational deacon in the Diocese of Western North Carolina. This December Rev. Ware will be ordained as a bi-vocational priest and is the first graduate of the Diocese of Western North Carolina’s Iona Collaborative program. 

The Iona Collaborative at Seminary of the Southwest offers a Clergy and Lay Minister Training Curriculum. With over 450 hours of graduate-level curriculum in our catalog, we resource diocesan schools forming priests, deacons, and licensed lay leaders. Modeled on the course of study in a residential seminary, our clergy and lay minister training curriculum is designed to prepare students for ordination or lay licensure. We partner with dioceses to adapt our materials to support their particular formational needs. Our goal is to empower diocesan schools to design certificate programs that are challenging, contextually sensitive, and practically focused on preparing people for ministry.


The Rev. Deacon Anita Ware is a native of Kings Mountain, NC. She is in her 27th year of public education currently serving in a dual role as Executive Director of Innovative Programs, English as a Second Language and Middle Schools for Cleveland County Schools, as well as serving as the Principal of Turning Point Academy, an alternative program for the district. Her work and ministry interests intersect to help high risk students find alternative ways to graduate from high school, and with her work with other vulnerable student groups. Anita serves at The Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Hickory, NC and is involved in an ecumenical street ministry called Our Father’s Pavilion in downtown Hickory. 

We asked Rev. Ware several questions about her life, ministry, and experience being locally formed through the Iona Collaborative curriculum. Her answers are below:

Share a bit about your story and why you are called to bi-vocational ministry:

I started discerning a call to ordained ministry about 15 years ago after serving in a variety of lay leadership roles at All Saints Episcopal Church in Gastonia, NC. After Parish Lay Discernment, I entered our diocesan diaconal formation program, and was ordained a vocational deacon in January of 2010. Serving as a deacon has been very rewarding, but I always felt a call to offer the sacraments of the church, particularly through the administration of communion to God’s people, particularly those who are marginalized in our world. From the beginning of my discernment of holy orders I felt strongly I was not being called to leave education. It was and continues to be an important part of my ministry in the world.

You have been a deacon for many years, can you share a bit about your discernment and involvement with Iona to becoming ordained as a bi-vocational priest this December?

Iona has given me the opportunity to receive a theological education and be prepared for the priesthood without leaving my career to enter a full time seminary program. I see this as an asset because it allowed me to train for the priesthood while remaining connected to the needs and concerns of the world. Iona has also given me the great opportunity to develop a community of teachers and clergy that I will continue to be in relationship with since we are all part of the same diocese. I will have continued support as I transition from my role as a vocational deacon to a bi-vocational priest. I look forward to continuing a relationship with the Iona Program in Western North Carolina.

What is it like being the first graduate of the Western North Carolina Iona program? What was your experience of being locally formed?

I have had a great experience with our Iona Program. It has been special to help build our program and have input in our curriculum and program format. I look forward to being involved with future students who enter the program, and look forward to continuing the relationships I have established in our diocese. I think it is such an asset to be formed locally and have the privilege of continuing to serve in my parish in Hickory and continuing to work in ministry in my local community.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I am so thankful for the dedicated Western North Carolina Iona Program faculty including our deans, The Reverend Margaret Faeth and the Reverend Deacon Pam Bright. As well, additional faculty include the Reverend Rich Biega, Ed Bleynat, the Reverend David Henson, the Reverend Judith Davis, and the Reverend Deacon Bob Zito. I appreciate the support of the Reverend Karla Woggan and Reverend Jared Grant at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Hickory, NC. Finally, I want to extend a tremendous deal of gratitude to the support of our bishop, The Rt. Rev. José McLoughlin and all members of the diocesan steering committee. I will be forever in their debt.

If you would like to learn more about the Iona Collaborative’s certificate programs, please visit the Collaborative’s website. 

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