Episcopal nun helps stray kitten in Oklahoma find a home in Ohio

By Melodie Woerman
Posted Apr 12, 2024

Melissa Toedtman meets Baby Motka, a stray kitten she agreed to adopt, for the first time in the Community of the Transfiguration convent in Cincinnati, Ohio. The kitten was found in Oklahoma and was brought to Ohio by members of a Facebook group of clergy with cats. Toedtman is the community’s pianist. Photo: Sister Diana Doncaster

[Episcopal News Service] Sister Diana Doncaster of the Community of the Transfiguration, an Episcopal religious order for women in Cincinnati, Ohio, was one link in a chain of people who helped an abandoned kitten in Oklahoma find a home with a local pianist, Melissa Toedtman, who plays for the convent’s worship services.

Sister Diana, who also is a priest, told Episcopal News Service that on March 22, she and other members of the Facebook group “Clergy with Cats,” a private group with some 3,000 members, were alerted by Jeannie McMahan of Okemah, Oklahoma, to a stray kitten that had been found by her neighbor. McMahon, who already had her hands full with her own cats, couldn’t take her in, so she posted the kitten’s photo and asked if someone could offer it a home.

The group, Sister Diana said, is an interfaith, ecumenical and international mix of ordained people. “It’s an amazing group of mutual support, caring, laughter and, of course, cats,” she said.

Motka (top), who belongs to Sister Diana, meets Baby Motka in the convent after the kitten arrived in Cincinnati. Photo: Sister Diana Doncaster

Because group members often share photos of their own cats, McMahan thought this kitten looked like one of Sister Diana’s cats and gave her the same name, Motka, which means “Gift of God” in Russian. Sister Diana’s Motka is a Siberian Forest Cat – hence the Russian name – and has a long, thick coat of black, brown and cream fur. This makes her very fluffy, a trait her kitten namesake shares.

As luck, or perhaps providence, would have it, Toedtman, the pianist, mentioned after the Palm Sunday service that she was thinking of getting a kitten after the unexpected death of her beloved dog. “So I whipped out my phone, showed her the photo of Baby Motka, and it was love at first sight,” Sister Diana said.

To get the kitten from Oklahoma to southern Ohio, the Facebook group jumped into collective action. Fifty-nine donors contributed to a rescue and travel fund, which paid for Baby Motka’s initial shots and microchip, as well as travel expenses for her helpers. Three people each took a leg of the journey as a “kitten train,” driving through parts of five states before arriving in Cincinnati on April 6.

Since Toedtman was away on a long-planned trip, Baby Motka joined the much larger Motka in the convent until she could be united with her new owner – or as Sister Diana suggested, her new servant – on April 10.

For Sister Diana, the story of this kitten’s rescue and new home is “about God pouring out grace in unexpected ways.” She noted that this effort wasn’t a carefully planned church event but rather sprang from “one kitten, one Facebook group, some loving and generous people who were moved to help, and a woman who needs a kitten in her life.”

It shows, she said, “that God does amazing things through small opportunities.”

—Melodie Woerman is a freelance reporter based in Kansas.