By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published January 6, 2011
Amy Daniels was early in her days as an Air Force chaplain when two helicopters on a training mission collided in the Nevada desert, killing a dozen crewmembers.
Teaming up with the unit commander, Daniels visited all the homes and loved ones of the crewmembers who died and ministered to the needs of their families, as well as supporting the other members of their stricken unit.
“You are with them in the midst of their suffering. You are guiding the people through some really horrific time,” said Daniels, who was then a minister in the United Methodist Church.
In January, Daniels, 44, takes the helm of the archdiocesan Office of Formation and Discipleship, which is responsible for facilitating evangelization across the archdiocese and also includes initiation into the Catholic faith and catechesis in its mission. She succeeds Dennis Johnson Jr. as director of the office.
She became a Catholic in 2004 after serving from 1997 to 2004 as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, rising to the rank of captain. She was the senior chaplain to the 16th Air Expeditionary Wing at Aviano Air Force Base, Italy, where she managed chaplains in six countries throughout the Balkans.
It was during her early training as a chaplain that she learned to pray the rosary, as she joined Catholic seminarians walking around bases, she said.
Daniels said much of her life was spent trying to get close to God. It is what spurred her to enter seminary and later to seek ordination, she said. It continued to draw her into the Catholic Church.
While saying she is “profoundly indebted to her Protestant roots,” Daniels said the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist allows people an intimacy with God. And when she realized that, Daniels said she realized only within the Catholic Church could she achieve her desire for closeness with God.
Daniels has been in professional ministry positions full time for more than 16 years in diverse settings. She earned a doctor of ministry from the Oblate School of Theology, San Antonio, Texas. And she also holds a master of divinity degree from Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, D.C., and a bachelor of fine arts with a minor in religious studies from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
Born in Charlotte, N.C., she grew up as a “military brat” and called military bases on the East Coast home. Her father served in the U.S. Coast Guard.
Daniels and her husband, Paul Burgess-Wise, and their five children will move to Atlanta from Cary, N.C., where she has been the director of adult faith formation and director of pastoral care at St. Michael the Archangel Church.
Daniels said she was drawn to the position in the Archdiocese of Atlanta to be a part of the long-term vision of the archdiocese. She liked how the archdiocese completed its strategic planning process and is implementing its findings, serving the identified needs of the growing number of Catholics in this part of the South and making sure the service is effective.
At the North Carolina parish, Daniels began support groups for people dealing with the death of loved ones to cancer. Catholics attended these groups at nearby Protestant churches, so it was important to start them to serve the congregation, she said. Also, the parish began a weekly Scripture study that draws close to 100 people, she said.