Reverend Gina Finocchiaro ’97 will return to Andover as Interim Protestant Chaplain for the upcoming school year. Finocchiaro, the former Community Chaplain at Brewster Academy, will succeed Reverend Anne Gardner, who departed for a position at the Harvard-Westlake School after 12 years at Andover.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time on campus and my position at Brewster. I was really excited for the opportunity to come back to Andover and to transition from that school to a school that I love and was such an important influence on me and provided such an awesome education and opportunity for me as a student. Since I tested the waters at Brewster, I look forward to doing more work with adolescents as a chaplain, ” said Finocchiaro.
In her role, Finocchiaro hopes to guide Andover students and faculty along their religious journeys. According to Finocchiaro, she has “too many ideas” for virtual religious programming across all spiritual backgrounds.
“My goal is to try and support the whole community as much as possible, and I will do all that I can to fulfill the needs of students, whether they are Protestant or not,” said Finocchiaro.
Mary Kantor, Catholic Chaplain, is eager to work with Finocchiaro in engaging with the Andover community. The two have connected to share their ideas for interfaith collaborations this year.
“The Chaplains are hoping to offer some virtual interfaith events and prayer opportunities, along with the programming of each of our faith communities. We look forward to welcoming the Interim Protestant Chaplain, [Reverend] Finocchiaro to our team in these ventures,” wrote Kantor in an email to The Phillipian.
According to Finocchiaro, while she was not involved in spiritual life as an Andover student, her learning at the school paved the way for her spiritual revival in college.
“I had some really significant and influential teachers at Andover that shaped my life and my perspective on the world. One of the ways that they did that was to help me have a really curious and open mind about the world and my own perspective, to sort of challenge and to change it, and to ask questions and find my own voice. That certainly set me up foundationally so that when I got to college and I started questioning everything that I had been taught… that Andover foundation really was important” said Finocchiaro.
A pivotal moment in Finocchiaro’s religious journey came during the summer before her senior year of college, when she returned to the Catholic Church of her youth but did not feel welcomed. Finocchiaro instead began worshipping at South Church in Andover, Mass. There, Finocchiaro connected with a minister who completed her conversion to Protestantism.
Finocchiaro said, “The senior pastor [at South Church] was on sabbatical that summer, [so] the associate pastor was there. To this day, I sometimes wonder if she really existed because I never saw her again… She was this magical person that arrived in my life, and she said, ‘Just take the summer, try to listen to what God’s telling you, and worship with us. We’d love to have you sing if you want to sing or preach if you want to preach. Otherwise just be still.’”
Finocchiaro continued, “I preached that summer [at] that church. I sang a few times in worship. I went back to college and resigned from Catholic everything and embraced this person that I became, so in many ways Andover was this pivotal place in my life but not perhaps in a traditional or expected sense in that way.”
According to Finocchiaro, she aims to connect with students and fulfill her duties whether that takes place virtually or in-person. Speaking from experience, Finocchiaro is confident in her ability to rise to new challenges.
“Every church that I have served, the ceiling has literally caved in. The ceiling has literally fallen in at every church I’ve served, and three for three. One way to think of that is like, ‘Oh my gosh, Gina comes and the ceiling falls in.’ I like to say when the ceiling falls in, you have an experienced leader in me who knows what to do,” said Finocchiaro.
She continued, “It’s not that exciting for me to be in normal, ordinary times, so I do well in a challenge, and I do well in crisis. All of that is energizing for me, which I think makes me a good fit for this moment which is more complicated and more chaotic than certainly anybody knew it would be… There’s a lot of change, so I find all that super exciting.”
Charlotte Whitehurst ’22, Head of the Andover Christian Fellowship (A.C.F), sees opportunity in Andover’s efforts to reimagine its programming for the upcoming school year.
“I am so excited to connect with the Andover community this fall, whatever that looks like. The Bible has this verse, John 1:5, that says, ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ I look forward to celebrating this strength and hope with others even as the world feels like it is falling apart around us, ” wrote Whitehurst in an email to The Phillipian.