Campus parish unites students and longtime parishioners

| Susan Klemond for The Catholic Spirit | November 4, 2014 | 0 Comments
University of Minnesota students Maria Jamison (left) and Sarah Stuart attend St. Lawrence Catholic Church and Newman Center’s fall retreat Oct. 24-26. Photo courtesy of Justina Hausmann, associate campus minister at St. Lawrence

University of Minnesota students Maria Jamison (left) and Sarah Stuart attend St. Lawrence Catholic Church and Newman Center’s fall retreat Oct. 24-26. Photo courtesy of Justina Hausmann, associate campus minister at St. Lawrence

Laura Knippling experienced culture shock when she left her family’s South Dakota ranch to attend the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis more than two years ago. She found the best treatment for that culture shock near campus at St. Lawrence Catholic Church and Newman Center.

By getting involved in the parish and campus ministry, she saw that God was the common factor that could link her to home.

“This community is pretty much my family here,” Knippling said. “They are constantly supporting me, whether it’s physically, emotionally, spiritually.”

As St. Lawrence Catholic Church and Newman Center’s revitalized campus ministry program invites increasing numbers of students to grow in their faith, the parish’s diverse congregation of students and longtime parishioners is becoming a stronger faith community.

“We have talked about the whole thing together that we’re one spiritual family of resident parishioners and student parishioners who are all called to share the abundant love of Christ together,” said Pastor Jon Vander Ploeg. “Really, St. Lawrence Catholic Church and Newman Center is about all of us pursuing holiness, serving together the way the Lord invites us.”

Founded in 1858, St. Lawrence merged with Newman Center in 1998.

Campus ministry director Brother Ken Apuzzo of the Brotherhood of Hope, and associate campus minister Justina Hausmann have trained student leaders to invite their peers to deepen their faith. Students have opportunities to encounter Christ, build Christian relationships and become part of the community through a weekly prayer meeting, Bible studies and retreats.

“What we’re building is a way of life, and it’s a spiritual family,” Brother Apuzzo said. “It’s the family of God.”

The ministry reaches out to those who are — and aren’t —practicing their faith, he said. “Everything is a stepping stone back to the Church.”

The parish invites students to go deeper, Father Vander Ploeg said. “We want always to be reaching out, not just settling with what we have,” he said. “The U of M has so many tens of thousands of students. We want to be reaching out to them constantly.”

Collaborating with the parish’s campus ministry in some of its outreach efforts is St. Paul’s Outreach, a West St. Paul-based Catholic college ministry.

The parish also seeks to better unite older parishioners and students. Non-student parishioners make up 30 percent the parish, Brother Apuzzo said.

“It really opened my eyes to how much the regular members of the parish wish to be involved in the student activities or just get to know us,” Knippling said.

According to Rod Sykora, who has long been involved with the parish, “The dynamic between the more elderly, traditional parishioners of St. Lawrence and the youthful students [with] their curiosity and their zeal, it’s a fun relationship to watch and be a part of,” he said.

Though Sykora is a parishioner at Good Shepherd, for the last 25 years he has joined St. Lawrence and Newman Center volunteers to serve a monthly meal at the nearby Ronald McDonald House, which offers lodging to families of seriously ill children. Recently, Ronald McDonald House Charities honored the parish for its long service.

As the parish’s student outreach grows, so does the need for resources. Father Vander Ploeg said it is developing a campaign to help with the mission.

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