New campus minister at University of Central Missouri

Kelsey Gunkel

By Megan Marley

The Newman Center at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg is under a new campus minister.

Kelsey Gunkel took on that role this month and brings a wide scope of experience to the job.

The youngest of three girls, Gunkel attended Catholic schools growing up in Ocean Springs, Miss. and graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio in 2014. She straightaway went to teaching high school religion and English in Belize.

“It was quite entertaining, as English was not my subject or my degree! That was fun!” she laughed. “The primary language in Belize is English, and the second is Spanish; most people think it’s the other way around.”

Gunkel then led a youth group in Phoenix, Ariz. from July 2015 to January of this year.

“The parish itself was about 80 percent Hispanic. And in the youth group it was about 99 percent Hispanic and then, me,” she said. “I already knew things culturally, and that was a big help in knowing the [local] culture and being able to adapt things according to that—it also helped my Spanish skills even more.”

She also spent this past year as a NET missionary in Australia, running high school retreats all over the country, literally—covering 60,000 kilometers and reaching 6,000 students.

“We had a few opportunities in Australia to minister to college students and I think that’s what got me excited about this job in the first place,” Gunkel said. “What I think I’m most excited about is something I’m always excited to do—and have always done—is just sharing what Jesus has done in my life and like, using that to leading them to a deeper or a first encounter with Him as well.”

“I think it’s needed on college campuses—I’m like, ‘Yes! Trailblaze!’ Be a trailblazer, as long as God’s grace does it.”

She’s eager to help students with opportunities to receive the sacraments and grow in their Faith.

“I’ll know more once I get to know the actual students there—’cause it’s all, like any ministry, is tailored to what they need, and it’s just my job to guide and help provide the means for those needs.”

“Part of it is sitting down with them and asking: what do you want to learn more about? What are you passionate about? Do you want to learn more about your faith in general? Do you want to learn about something in specific? Do we want women’s groups, do we want men’s groups?”

Overall, Gunkel wants students to be on fire for Jesus.

“I would say to students, ‘live your life on purpose’, ‘cause that was the tagline that radically changed my life last year. That’s what I’d want students to know, to live life on purpose and not be defined by grades—be defined by who God created you to be!”

When not doing ministry work, Gunkel enjoys playing the guitar and piano and curling up next to a fireplace with hot chocolate and a book. She’s also down for conversations, if you’d like to know her better or find out more about the Newman Center.

“I’m an open book—ask me questions!”

For more on the Newman Center at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, visit


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October 19, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph