Tonja Lynde-Kernell  |  Board Member  | Kansas City Archdiocese

An attendee of the very first Lourdes Virtual Pilgrimage Experience in 2004, Tonja joined her husband Jim on the Board of Directors in 2019.

A former chemist, she is an active member of Curé of Ars Parish in Leawood, Kansas. Tonja is also a mother of four and a passionate advocate for inclusive, Catholic education for those with special needs.

Most satisfying aspect of serving with Lourdes Volunteers:

Getting to know the pilgrims and trying to help them feel listened to and cared for.

My role on pilgrimage:

My title is a pilgrimage leader, but I really just like to be in the background. As I take attendance, I enjoy listening and getting to know the pilgrims. I prepare for pilgrimage by prayer, packing and preparing the attendance/info app.

First joined Lourdes Volunteers:

We met Marlene at the first Lourdes Virtual Pilgrimage Experience in Kansas City in 2004, meeting her again met her on the street in Lourdes in 2005.  After popping into our lives a few more times, we realized there are no coincidences and knew we should be a part of this wonderful organization.

Favorite moments on pilgrimage:

Arrival welcome and Mass, the grotto late at night, and the candlelight procession.

Most people might not know:

I am a former chemist and now have no lab, so I keep a lab notebook for European/sourdough bread experiments in the kitchen!

Community involvement:

Our youngest child (of four) has Down syndrome, and my husband and I are involved with KC Down Syndrome Guild.  We helped to start a non-profit organization, EMBRACE (Enriching Many By Reaching All in Catholic Education), which helps provide children with special needs the opportunity for an inclusive education by providing resources in their home parish schools.

Sources of inspiration:

My grandmother had a listener’s heart and great love of Jesus.

Book recommendations:

Favorite authors: Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Victor Hugo. A recent favorite is “A Gentleman from Moscow” by Amor Towles.


Favorite quote: 

I love the entire Chapter 12 in Corinthians regarding spiritual gifts.