When Josephine von Dohlen completed her bachelor’s degree in May from Hillsdale College in Michigan, majoring in American studies with a minor in journalism, about two weeks later, she set out on an adventure, joining a friend from high school in hiking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail in Spain.

Later in a blog for the Catholic Standard’s website, she wrote, “My journey on the Camino went straight west from Sarria to Santiago, crossing farms, mountains and little villages along the 115-kilometer path. With each passing step, the pilgrimage opened my heart to deeper trust and greater devotion.”

She and her friend hiked for five days, averaging about 15 miles a day. Those days, she said, helped her appreciate “the importance of spending time in silence and focusing on the day’s task ahead, instead of falling into the trap of being consumed by an all-too-hectic schedule.”

They joined fellow pilgrims from around the world in praying together during daily Mass at mission churches along the path.

“It re-emphasized the universality of the Catholic Church and the importance of trusting in God,” she said.

Then after returning home to Minnesota and spending time with her family and friends there, she embarked in the last week of June on another adventure, becoming the new reporter for the Catholic Standard newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

Tracing the roots of her interest in journalism, von Dohlen said, “I think I’ve always loved listening to people’s stories and hearing about people’s lives and reading books about people who lived differently than I did. So my favorite part about being a reporter is getting the chance to listen to people’s stories.”

Joining the Catholic Standard was not her first experience in Catholic journalism or in Washington, D.C. In the summer of 2017, she worked as an intern reporter for the Catholic News Service in the nation’s capital, writing more than 30 stories on a variety of topics, including Supreme Court cases, Christian refugees in the Middle East, and religious freedom in the United States.

Von Dohlen said that in working in the Catholic press, she has especially enjoyed witnessing “how Christ is touching people’s daily lives, and how people take the Gospel and apply it to the communities around them.”

The oldest of nine children of Chris and Mary Anne von Dohlen, she said, “I’ve always definitely been grateful for all of my siblings. Watching them grow up has been a blessing.” She has two brothers and six sisters, and she is the godmother to her youngest sister, Rosemary, who is one years old.

Speaking of the roots of her Catholic faith, von Dohlen said, “My parents are very adamant about daily Mass and the daily rosary.” The family’s after dinner routine included praying the rosary together as a family, with each child taking a particular decade of the rosary.

Growing up with that experience has inspired her to “continue living that outside my family’s home… (That) has been a really beautiful way to take that faith that my parents instilled in me wherever I go,” said von Dohlen, who now often attends daily Mass at the St. Ursula Chapel of the Archdiocese of Washington’s Pastoral Center when she’s not out on the road covering story assignments.

Perhaps fittingly, the von Dohlens are members of Holy Family Parish  in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. She said she’s always had “a special devotion to St. Joseph, because he’s my namesake.” Von Dohlen especially admires St. Joseph’s humility. “He doesn’t say any words in the Bible, but he is a strong and firm leader,” she said.

A graduate of Holy Family Academy and then of Providence Academy in Plymouth, Minnesota, she said her Catholic education “really instilled in me, looking to the saints as a source of knowledge and as a source of wisdom from ages past, and how we can still apply what the saints taught” to today.

At Hillsdale College, von Dohlen served as the city editor for The Collegian newspaper there, and wrote and edited articles for newsletters, magazines and other publications for the college.

“Hillsdale re-emphasized that the search for beauty, truth and goodness is always continuing and growing ever deeper as we get older and as we gain more life experience,” she said.

Emma Restuccia, a communications associate for the Archdiocese of Washington and a 2016 graduate of Hillsdale, also contributes articles for the Catholic Standard, including award-winning articles last year about a Virginia artist whose paintings of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary now adorn St. Mary Mother of God Church in Washington.

In the summer of 2018, von Dohlen worked as a news intern for the Santa Barbara News-Press in California, covering everything from cold case murders to local festivals to business openings.

Then this summer as a reporter for the Catholic Standard, she hit the ground running, writing articles, posting stories on our website, helping coordinate the Junior Saints children’s section, and promoting our stories on social media. One of her first stories involved traveling to West Virginia to cover a summer camp for senior citizens, and this week, she wrote the Catholic Standard’s cover story on the Mission of Mercy dental clinic at the University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center, which Catholic Charities co-hosted.

“Everything there (at the Mission of Mercy) was extremely joyful,” she said. “The patients were excited to be there. The dentists were happily volunteering their time.”

One of her favorite Catholic Standard stories so far involved covering the summer program for youth at St. John Francis Regis Parish in Hollywood, Maryland, which combines the traditional games and arts and crafts of summer camp with daily Mass and Adoration of the Eucharist. “I’ve never seen such a strong youth ministry program,” she said. “They’re filling their youth with such great community and with such a great foundation in love of the Lord.”

In her letter applying for the Catholic Standard’s reporting position, von Dohlen wrote, “Our world runs on communication – bridging the gap between the work of the Catholic Church and modern communication is essential to the life of the Church.” And she added, “Sharing stories of the local Church helps cultivate the light of faith among its members.”

And now as a reporter for the Catholic Standard, she said, “I’ve loved getting to know all the different communities within the archdiocese, traveling to different parishes and schools. It’s been a lot of fun to be thrown into all the events and happenings and (experience) the heart of the Catholic community here.”