A Catholic Mom Who Will Take Her Faith to Congress
By: Deal W. Hudson
Karen Diebel is a pro-life, pro-family Catholic hoping to win the GOP nomination to run for Congress in Orlando, Florida’s 24th District. Diebel represents a very different kind of Catholic politician from Speaker Nancy Pelosi who led the charge for pro-abortion funding as part of the health care reform.
Topping the list of Diebel’s political priorities are the defense of life and family:
“It is critically important to have a strong pro-life, pro-family voice in this district. There is such danger right now, with both the incumbent and the administration. All the decision-making on economic and social issues is in opposition to the values that reinforce and support strong families.”
Seven years ago a run for Congress would have seemed impossible, when her husband, an obstetrician, was killed while helping a stranger on the side of a highway. “My life crumbled in an instant, into a million pieces.”
That was June 2002. Now Karen Diebel is 43 years old, her three boys are ages 10, 12, and 13, and she is feeling “older and wiser . . . suffering gives you a clearer perspective.” She thanks a priest in her parish, Rev. Richard Walsh, who baptized all her boys, for helping her survive the loss of her husband. When she once complained to him of being left alone, Father Walsh told her:
“The Lord has given you many gifts. Think of that as you are sad – how you have been blessed with many things. You have to use them.”
“Then I thought to myself, ‘I will not be tired anymore.’”
She was already working full-time for Verizon, as director of Global Solutions, to provide for herself and her children. As director, Diebel became an expert at solving business and technological problems for Fortune 100 companies.
“Thank God I had a job at the time, and I could pay the bills. Because I kept waking up thinking I am the only parent left, I’ve got to figure it out — I was 35.”
But, after the comment from Father Walsh, Diebel got more involved in her community, co-founding a health care clinic in memoriam of her late husband, providing health care to East Orlando’s uninsured. “The best way I knew how to give back was to help others.” She also entered local politics and became Vice Mayor and a City Commissioner of Winter Park, a suburb of Orlando.
Her experience in municipal government coupled with the direction of the country led her to run for Congress. “In government, both here and in D.C., there are too many competing agendas, rather than a clear focus on solving problems.”
Diebel also observed that those involved in local politics often had great intentions but lacked the needed skills. “I had the advantage of having leadership skills, not just the ability to redistribute money and collect more taxes. We need to get more efficient, ensure personal freedoms, and not waver on first principles.”
A graduate of the University of Notre Dame (Class of ‘89), Karen Diebel is well versed in the teachings of the Church and applies them to her views on public policy.
Diebel is the granddaughter of Irish immigrants: Her father, a McGuigan from Belfast, met her mother, a Reilly from County Mayo, in Chicago where most of her family still lives. Her brother, Michael McGuigan, just returned from his second tour in Iraq.
When asked how she would raise three boys while being a member of Congress Diebel said, “I am already doing it — we are a very, very tight knit family. My boys are fun and they are strong because they’ve had to be along the way. Even today, professionally, I have to travel, but we often go as a family. They can understand and learn along the way.”
If elected to Congress, Karen Diebel will not leave her faith at home, as so many seem to have done. “My faith gives me strength, a faith that is very clear on the values I need to carry forward in my personal life. We have to make time to do the things we believe in.”