Catholic students strive to be ‘strong men of God’

| Julie Pfitzinger | November 10, 2011 | 0 Comments

From left, University of St. Thomas students Paul Underwood, John Baumgardner, Andrew Kincheloe, Andrew Marschner and Nathaniel Binversie engage in small group discussion during a meeting of the Catholic Men’s Leadership Group Nov. 3 at St. Thomas. Photo by Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

The life of a college student can be a busy one, but for a group of young men at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, making time every Thursday night to gather together and talk about their Catholic faith is a top priority.

The Catholic Men’s Leadership Group, known as “Catholic Men’s” to its members, was originally launched four years ago by former St. John Vianney Seminary rector Father William Baer. Although Father Baer has since gone on to become pastor of Transfiguration parish in Oakdale, the group has continued to grow and thrive.

“When Father Baer started Catholic Men’s, the goal was to help us become better men and better fathers,” said John Baumgardner, a senior at UST and a group leader. “There is a need for good male role models in today’s society.”

The ‘real deal’

With approximately 40 members — including athletes, student leaders, seminarians, ROTC students and others — the goal of the group is “to get to the real deal, the truth about the Catholic faith,” said Andrew Kincheloe, also a UST senior and Catholic Men’s leader.

“We aren’t about advice and different kinds of topics. We dig deep into faith and into the hearts of all the guys who are part of the group,” he said. “As leaders, we want them to know that we’ll be their ‘bros’ on this journey. We want to be strong men of God.”

When asked what it means to be a Catholic man, Baumgardner said the primary focus is a love for God and for others, and a willingness to be a witness to the faith every day.

“And I think to be a Catholic man on campus at UST, I would also say it’s so important to be someone who gives of himself,” Baumgardner added. “All of us in Catholic Men’s are involved in different groups and activities, but at the same time, we are striving for something more. We want to know and love God every day.”

Catholic Men’s doesn’t actively solicit new members; rather, the group’s foundation is relational, according to Kincheloe. In fact, Baumgardner, who was invited into the group during the fall of his freshman year, was the one who extended a similar invitation to his good friend Kincheloe during their sophomore year.

“I knew John from a class and respected him. It’s the same way I feel about everyone in Catholic Men’s; all of them have  impressed me and shown they want to be better men — men of love and prayer,” Kincheloe said. “Knowing that this kind of commitment is meaningful to them makes it meaningful to me, too.”

Finding support

Father Humberto Palomino, pastor at St. Mark in St. Paul, has taken over the role of liaison to the group. While he will occasionally talk about subjects such as prayer and the Eucharist, the Thursday night sessions are primarily facilitated by six core team members (three seminarians, three non-seminarians) including Baumgardner and Kincheloe.

Asked if there is an “alumni” branch of Catholic Men’s for those who have graduated from UST, Baumgardner said there isn’t anything formal at this point, but the formation of a young adult group down the road has been discussed.

“I really think there is a need for guys during the post-college years to have the support of other men,” he added.

Kincheloe emphasized that Catholic Men’s has a strong social aspect as well. Apart from their weekly meetings, members will frequently play a game of pick-up basketball together or meet for hamburgers at the Groveland Tap.

“It’s important for us to develop friendships outside the group meetings, too,” he said.

Both men spoke about how their respective journeys toward a greater appreciation for the Catholic faith have led them down unexpected paths. Kincheloe has a major in business administration- entrepreneurship and is interested in exploring social entrepreneurship opportunities where he could incorporate his faith into his work life.

Baumgardner, a business finance major, is also now a first-year seminarian at St. John Vianney, and after graduating from UST in May, he will be returning to his hometown of Milwaukee, where he plans to enter the seminary.

Kincheloe joked that he doesn’t think he’ll be ready for marriage for a few years, but when the time comes, he said, “John’s going to be the one to perform the ceremony.”

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Category: Colleges and Careers