Meet Mona Svensson, the new pastor at the Swedish Church in New York City. Mona Svensson will arrive in February 2011, but Nordstjernan met with her when she came for a brief visit.
Mona, you were born in Limhamn outside of Malmö. Was your family religious?
“No. My father was a policeman and my mother a stay-at-home mom. But I went to Sunday School and my grandmother, who was religious, took me to service afterward. My grandmother, who lived down the street from us, was a role model to me, and when my grandfather passed away, I went to live with her for a while so that she wouldn’t feel so lonely.”
Did you always want to be a pastor?
“Oh no! First I wanted to be an opera singer. A relative of ours built a TV and I remember waking up one night and seeing my mother watching ‘Andy Pandy,’ a Danish TV-program, which featured ‘Madame Butterfly.’ It was so exciting! She sang and she died! And I knew that’s what I wanted to do! Later on I took singing lessons, but you had to be 24 in order to study at the music conservatory, and I had to do something in the meantime. I ended up studying theology at Lund University, and that’s where I was asked to preach. And then something wonderful happened! While I was preaching, a marvelous feeling came over me and I heard a voice say: ‘This is what you shall do with your life.’ Afterward my father said, ‘What happened to you? You’re glowing!’ That’s when I knew. Today I think that if I can only convey an inch of that feeling of God’s nearness to the people who come to church, then their hearts would burst with love.”
Do you have a favorite Bible passage?
“Well, I have several, but I adore ‘Sanningen skall göra er fria’ (The truth shall set you free (John 8:32)) and I love the stories about Lazarus, Martha and Mary and their home in Bethany. One favorite character is the apostle Peter. I see my own impulsiveness in him. I’m impulsive and a bit mischievous. I like to have fun and I think it’s important to have fun. Both Jesus and God have humor, and laughter can be very relieving, I think.”
How long are you going to stay in New York and what do you look forward to doing here?
“I’m going to be here for five years, and apart from my work here and the meetings with people that I look forward to having here at the church, I look forward to walking around and seeing all the beautiful buildings, strolling around Central Park, listening to opera at the Met and seeing theater.…”
Mona’s husband Tommy is coming with her, and her five children and five grandchildren (she is expecting another two in May) will most likely come and visit, too.
Mona Svensson, currently working as a pastor and director at Åkersberga Stiftgård in Skåne, has also been stationed in Ystad and in Malmö's St. Pauli Parish. She has been a family pastor, a school pastor, a district pastor and also, the last years, a hospital pastor. Mona Svensson helped found the hospice operation at Värnhem's Hospital in Malmö, and she also worked in San Agustin on Gran Canaria. Being a pastor is more than a career, more than a job, she says. “There’s an ugly word in Swedish—brödpräst—somebody who only does it for the income. I have never understood that. At the same time I have a deal with the Lord: The day I no longer feel that I have something to give as a pastor, is the day I have to step down.”