Throughout Ruth Mangual’s life, she has listened to her spirit. In 2018, Mangual was running her own pastry business and working as an adjunct professor at Monroe College when she pivoted to work as a safe home coordinator and economic empowerment manager for Restore NYC, an organization that works to end sex and labor trafficking. Now she’s an MDiv senior graduating from Princeton Theological Seminary this spring.
Mangual began to feel a call to ministry in her teens and 20s, but the time spent with her female pastor during those years, hearing the struggles she experienced as a woman of color leading a congregation, made Mangual hesitant. It wasn’t until the 2017 ordination of a friend and Princeton Seminary graduate that she had an epiphany.
“My soul was stirred because I felt the sermon was speaking to me,” Mangual says. “I became elated hearing my friend’s story, and I believe it was providence.”
Through that friend, she was invited to the L.I.V.E. Symposium, and was accepted to Princeton Seminary three months later. Her first year was challenging as she worked through her spiritual formation, but a chance meeting with the Rev. Dr. Chester Polk, Jr., Director of Field Education Emeritus, proved pivotal in her journey.
“I’d fought to answer the call to be a pastor for many years due to perceived difficulties of leading a congregation, especially as a woman,” she says. “One day I finally dared to ask God if God wanted me to be a pastor, and in my spirit I heard yes and wept.”
Mangual just happened to be walking on campus and found her way into the field education office that day and saw Dr. Polk standing in his doorway.
“He said, ‘it doesn’t have to look like what you’ve seen; it can be something new,’ so I could imagine innovative ways of looking at ministry and empowering women,” she says. “I’m grateful for the spiritual direction he offered.”
Mangual and her family live just 15 minutes from Princeton Seminary in a house on three acres of land. In the near future, she plans to grow seasonable vegetables, raise hens for eggs, and sell her homemade creations at a small farm stand to provide what she calls “farm to table. It will be centered on Luke’s theology of welcome and inclusion, La Santa Cena.”
“Part of my vocation is the theology of food from a socioeconomic, food scarcity perspective,” she says. “I would love to have people enjoy a four-course meal at a long table and reflect biblically on the food, centered on welcoming and inclusion.”
Mangual also wants to provide spiritual direction retreats for other churches and work as an ordained pastor with women who’ve survived domestic violence or trafficking, helping them not only create their businesses but spiritual wellness. Opening a food truck is another goal, particularly with the current food scarcity, as a source of spiritual direction and sustenance. Her vision was inspired by her passion for community engagement and by Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000, she says.
“Jesus didn’t only preach; he fed them and met their needs first.”