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Remembering Donna Wiegel

The Gathering remembers beloved colleague, friend, and child of God, Donna Marie Wiegel.

Donna was born April 14, 1952 in Spencer, IA. She grew up in Des Moines, IA, attended college at both the University of Iowa and Drake University, and attended graduate school at DePaul University in Chicago.

Donna worked with the ELCA for over 25 years. She began with the Women of the ELCA, then worked with the Gathering beginning in 1997. As an event planner, she was instrumental in organizing multiple Gatherings every three years, with some Gatherings reaching an attendance of over 40,000 youth.

When Donna began working with the Gathering, all registrations were handled with paper. Every registration came through the postal service. Donna coordinated the efforts to open the mail, organize registrations, enter the data from the registrations, and process payments. Donna began the system of streamlining to the current online registration system where congregations participating in the Gathering could manage their own accounts. She was a master of logistics and scheduling, performing this ministry with kindness and grace.

Donna knew many of the adult leaders with the Gathering on a first name basis. She was not just a colleague to many these leaders, she was also a beloved friend. Donna was well known for her compassionate heart and her embodied expressions of kindness, joy, and love. She was a passionate advocate for youth and young adults. Donna’s dedication and passion for ministry was not just expressed with her work with the Gathering, but also as a member of Resurrection Lutheran Church.

So many friends have shared their memories and stories of Donna in these days, so numerous that they sadly cannot be contained in a single entry. The themes that come up in these stories and memories are Donna’s capacity for generosity, her immense kindness, her faith in Jesus, her love of justice for all peoples, fighting and caring for the marginalized, and embodying her faith in Christ daily in the world.

When she wasn’t working with the Gathering, Donna enjoyed the simplicities of life. She loved being in the sun, at the beach, and on her bike. She reveled spending time with her daughter, Tatiana, and her beloved granddaughters.

Donna will be missed by so many. She has left a lasting legacy in her dedication to the ministry of the Gathering.

Meet Donna

-Donna Wiegel

DonnaMy name is Donna Wiegel, and I’ve been part of the Youth Gathering staff since 1997. Heidi Hagstrom, the former Gathering director, and I came on board together, when the Gathering moved from Minneapolis to become part of the ELCA churchwide organization’s ministry. Prior to working for the Gathering, I worked with Women of the ELCA for 5 years in a similar capacity – registration and housing.

My 19-year tenure with the Gathering has brought me tremendous joy. Not only am I on a first name basis with many of our adult leaders, but I can count so many of you as friends. Each Gathering cycle, I am energized when we get to the point where registration opens, and we really start to communicate with congregations. Youth workers are the heroes in my story of the Gathering!

Gathering paper registrationIt is also amazing to think that when I first started with the Gathering, nothing was digitized, and all registrations were on paper, mailed to the office on opening day. We had bins and bins and bins full of mail, with a lot of helping hands to sort, open, and date-stamp each batch. Then we got organized for data entry and processed payments, and at the end of the day, everything balanced.

I took my calling seriously enough to begin to streamline where I could. It took two Gathering cycles to move to a completely online registration system, with congregational accounts that churches could manage on their own.

In the end, serving the people of this wonderful church is my vocation and helping this ministry come to life every three years is the work of the Spirit.


Donna is a member of Resurrection in the Wrigleyville neighborhood of Chicago. She lives for summer weather to be out on her bike and with her granddaughter and dogs.