Director’s goal: all students in campus ministry to be saints

Missouri Western University students attend a Sunday Mass in the chapel of the Catholic Newman Center. (Photo courtesy Leeds Haroldson)

Missouri Western University students attend a Sunday Mass in the chapel of the Catholic Newman Center. (Photo courtesy Leeds Haroldson)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter

KANSAS CITY — Father Adam Johnson, diocesan director of Young Adult and Campus Ministry, knows the benefits of campus ministry first hand. While attending the University of Missouri-Columbia he was drawn to the Newman Center. The friends he made there were “passionate about growing in their relationship with Christ,” and the chaplains he met encouraged him to seriously consider the priesthood. In 2005, he answered that call and entered the seminary. Now, he credits his involvement in MU’s campus ministry program for “spurring” his vocation. He was ordained a priest in 2012.

After serving as pastor of St. Matthew the Apostle Parish in Kansas City, Father Johnson was named diocesan director of Young Adult and Campus Ministry earlier this year. He feels that being a priest and his past involvement in the campus ministry program at MU gives him just a bit of an edge: he’s not that far removed from his college days and being a priest gives the students access to sacraments and a level of trust. Students can feel comfortable confiding in him.

“College students are hungry for knowledge and for a relationship with Christ,” he said. “They ask big questions. To be able to assist in that process is a real grace. My goal is for all the students to be saints.”

Father Johnson oversees the campus ministry programs at three colleges within the diocese — Northwest Missouri State University, Maryville; University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg, and Missouri Western University, St. Joseph. He is in frequent contact with the campus ministers and offers Mass and the sacraments for students at the colleges. He provides spiritual direction weekly to students at Northwest Missouri State.

Max Pawlowski is in his third year as Campus Minister at Northwest Missouri State, working out of the Newman Catholic Center. He holds a Masters of Theology from St. Mary’s Seminary and University, Baltimore. He served as Religious Education Director and Pastoral Associate at several parishes over a five-year period before joining the Campus Ministry at Maryville. “My passion has always been for one-on-one evangelization and teaching the Catholic faith,” Pawlowski said.

Michael McCormick is the Campus Minister at the University of Central Missouri. He has been with Campus Ministry for a decade. His academic training in Philosophy and History was at UCM and he received his “Catholic training” from the diocesan Bishop Helmsing Institute.

Leeds Haroldson, Campus Minister at Missouri Western University in St. Joseph started working in his current position in 2009.  Before that he had many experiences working for the Church — nine months doing missionary work through N.E.T. ministries, three years as a seminarian for the Diocese of Helena, and a year teaching Theology at St. John Vianney College Preparatory High School in St. Louis.

Haroldson graduated from Benedictine College with honors and received a Bachelor degrees in Philosophy and Theology.  He is a member of the National Honor Society for Theological and Religious Studies (Theta Alpha Kappa) and The International Honor Society in Philosophy (Phi Sigma Tau). Currently he is pursuing a Masters of Science in Organizational Leadership with a concentration in change management consulting online from Norwich University in Vermont.

At the Catholic Newman Center at Missouri Western, students are offered a place across the street from the campus where they can attend Mass and go to confession. In addition, they can receive further education in their faith, attend many Christ-centered social events and participate in a variety of service projects. Students have access to more than 150 educational, spiritual, social and service programs through the Newman Center.

UCM’s Campus Ministry’s primary focus is making the Sacraments available on campus, McCormick said. The ministry also offers classes in Bible Study, basic Catholicism, and Theology of the Body. Average Mass attendance is around 50 – 60 students.

“At the Newman Catholic Center in Maryville,” Pawlowski said, “our mission statement can be summed up in the idea that we are here to form saints who are servants, who build up fellowship in the Church, martyrs or witnesses who bear witness to the Gospel, and disciples who lead others to life-long relationship with Jesus Christ through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  To that end, we offer the Sacraments regularly, including Mass and Confession four times per week.

“Participation in all of these Sacramental Encounters has been growing over the last few years,” he said. The Sunday 7 p.m. Mass is attended by an average of 35-40 students and weekday Masses on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday draw 12-15 students. Many students also take part in Eucharistic Adoration three times per week.

Pawlowski added that, “We are seeing a real increase in the Sacrament of Confession over the last three years; we now offer this sacrament for more than three hours per week, as well as at retreats and other special events. In addition, we seek to build fellowship through our weekly Wednesday Dinner which draws about 35-40 students, and other social events, like holiday parties.”

McCormick said the Campus Ministry students at UCM participate in basic evangelization; a number of them help promote Life on campus, including Project Rachel, the Church’s post-abortion healing ministry and My House, the multi-diocesan initiative that fosters the virtue of chastity and increases awareness of the effects of pornography on society.

Haroldson said at the Missouri Western Catholic Newman Center there is “a women’s group, a men’s group, Theological Thursdays, and Mass and reconciliation offered weekly. The students strive each and every day to become better disciples of Jesus Christ.” They are encouraged to engage in prayer, deepen their knowledge of the Faith, embrace the Sacramental Life and lead moral lives. They encourage one another in “this noble pursuit of happiness and in doing so are spiritually fulfilled.”

Pawlowski said students are the true core of the ministry. The NWMSU Newman Center has a core team of six students who help discern where God is leading the ministry and how to carry out its programming. Various committees and student groups handle other aspects of the ministry.
One student-led group is the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, FOCUS. There are FOCUS groups at many public universities around the country. The Northwest Missouri State FOCUS group is under the team direction of Mike Huelsing. Pawlowski described what FOCUS missionaries do and how FOCUS and Campus Ministry work together.

Through FOCUS, he said, students are constantly being taught to be teachers themselves and to learn how to share their faith with others. Daily, students who encounter Jesus deeply in the sacraments and the Word of God prayerfully bring their faith to campus both in organized outreach efforts and in everyday evangelization through friendship. Students are invited to gather together in FOCUS Missionary-led Bible Studies, then invited to grow in discipleship through one-on-one mentoring by FOCUS and Newman Center staff and other student leaders. Currently about 115 students are involved in weekly Bible Study through FOCUS.

The Newman Center staff, along with the FOCUS team, is always very present and visible in the day-to-day student life on campus. But, Pawlowski said, “We want to do more than just the work of the Church’s mission, we want to invite and empower students to become missionary disciples of Christ in His Church and we see this happening daily.”

How do the Campus Ministry programs reach out to students? Haroldson said that the Campus Ministry program at Missouri Western revolves around and flows from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Pawlowski said the Camino Retreat, a community-based, student-led evangelization retreat based on the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James in Spain, stands out. In this retreat, students seek to help other student “peregrinos,” pilgrims, encounter Jesus on the Way, find their Way in him, to live out the Way of the Gospel and show others the Way. Students are invited to encounter Jesus in His Word through Lectio Divina, in the Sacrament of Confession and in the Eucharist through Mass and Adoration.

This Fall, he said, 33 students attended the very first Camino retreat and another is planned for March 2016. “Each new retreat gives new students a chance to share the faith they have found in Jesus Christ on their life’s journey.”

UCM Campus Ministry is working on a Faith night that will involve talks, music and community building.

The Missouri Western Campus Ministry is expanding the campus apostolate by encouraging students to go on a FOCUS mission trip. Many students have gone on the trips, Haroldson said, and when they return, they have a renewed zeal for the Faith and a greater desire to help others come to know Christ and his Church.

Northwest’s Campus Ministry has been working to improve the Newman Center environment, and recently installed a new confessional to make the sacrament of Confession more visible, reverent and available to students. The ministry would “love to be able to give students a daily opportunity to encounter Jesus in the Sacraments, continue to make the Newman Center environment attractive, welcoming and sacred. We also seek greater participation from alumni, parents and friends to help us grow and become a stronger Catholic community. We are also interested in how to better reach out to faculty and staff of the University, particularly the Catholics.”

Campus Ministry can influence, change and invigorate the faith lives of students. NWMSU’s Pawlowski said the ministry is “seeing hope where there wasn’t hope, witnessing great changes in the ordinary lives of students. From the Greek system to the cafeteria, the Catholic faith is being lived and proclaimed in a way that brings light to the whole campus. Prayer and the sacraments continue to be ‘the air we breathe.’” He added that many students become more open to Jesus through being loved and accepted. In 2014, three students converted to Catholicism, and currently four students are preparing for Baptism and other sacraments. Many obstacles still exist for students who want to live out their relationship with Christ, but we see many victories as well.”

McCormick said UCM Campus Ministry is encouraging students to learn what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and to try to live a life that reflects this idea.

Haroldson said that through the efforts of campus Ministry, over the last six years many students have come back to the faith, come into the Church, and strengthened their understanding. Others have discerned calls to married life, the priesthood or religious life. This year two students have applied to become FOCUS missionaries.

And the ministry invigorates the ministers. MWU’s Haroldson said that seeing students become disciples of Jesus Christ invigorates him. “When this happens something inside them turns on — a switch is flipped as they begin to realize it is only Christ who brings them lasting joy and peace. It is all about them conforming their minds, hearts and hands to the mind, heart and hands of Jesus. When this alignment takes place you can see their potential.”

UCM’s McCormick said his life has been touched in too many ways to list. “To watch young people grown in their faith and especially to see how they do after college is a joy. God is good!”

NWMSU’s Pawlowski said the ministry influences, changes and invigorates him as every time he seeks to spread the Gospel, he is challenged to put it into practice in his own life. “Working in the Church, especially in direct evangelization, is a constant reminder that I need to live out my vocation as husband and father with integrity, I need to deepen my prayer life and I need to study so as to be ready to share the reason for my hope in Jesus. The Catholic faith is simply beautiful and it wants to diffuse itself. When we get a chance to share it daily, it just makes sense of our lives and allows us to experience our deepest purpose.”

Father Johnson also has goals for the Campus Ministries. “We’re looking into reviving the Campus Ministry and FOCUS groups at UMKC. There isn’t a Newman Center on the campus anymore, so we would need a meeting space. We do have some students leading study group clubs and Bible studies. We need to figure out how to better serve UMKC students.”

He would like to see daily Mass and Adoration available at all the campuses, Newman Center libraries stocked with spiritual books about saints and the Catholic faith, and a sense of community to foster in students the idea that forming good habits can help them hear God and build communication with Him.
To learn more about Campus Ministry in this diocese, visit


October 27, 2016
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph