We’ve been looking at examples of what holiness looks like in out contemporary world. last week I focused on FOCUS. They’re a missionary initiative on college campuses. Another example of “holiness live” involves a similar organization called “ST. PAUL’S OUTREACH.” (SPO). SPO began in 1985 at the Catholic Youth Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, founded by Gordy DeMarais, who remains the President of the organization today. As SPO grew, word about its success began to spread to other parts of the country and the demand led to the development of Mission Centers outside of Minnesota.
St. Paul Outreach currently operate in Minnesota, Ohio, New Jersey, Kansas/Missouri, Texas, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Florida. The testimonies of SPO “Disciples” are very impressive. They have “Chapters” on various kinds of local campuses: public and private, colleges and universities, religious and non-religious. Their national headquarters, which oversees and supports the mission in the field, is located in Minnesota.
Their MISSION STATEMENT: To build communities that form college students to be lifelong, faithful Catholics.
What is THE NEED that St. Paul Outreach sees? College campuses are battlegrounds for the minds and souls of our young people, and many are leaving the Church. Only 10% of Catholic millennials attend Sunday Mass (Sherry Weddell, Forming Intentional Disciples, 2012). Students are hungry for truth and meaning but most are not being reached effectively.
THE RESPONSE of St. Paul Outreach is reaching these students around the country, bringing them back to Christ and the fullness of the Catholic faith. We build evangelistic communities that provide a unique quality and depth of formation in the Catholic faith and life.
THE RESULTS of St. Paul Outreach have been impressive. Their ministry has produced thousands of alumni who are passionate followers of Christ and who continue to shine His light in the world long after they have graduated. They are renewing the Church and evangelizing the culture.
Some examples of St. Paul Outreach STUDENT IMPACT (This year alone):
- 17,000 REACHED by SPO Missionaries through a personal witness of faith or invitation to join the SPO community
- 2,300 CALLED to embrace faith in Christ through their weekly participation in SPO programs
- 574 FORMED to maturity in the Catholic faith and life through SPO’s Households and Formation Program
- 232 SENT out to spread the Gospel as Student Missionaries and full-time SPO staff
Some examples of St. Paul Outreach ALUMNI IMPACT:
- 150+ are living permanent vocations to the priesthood or religious life
- 98% attend Sunday Mass
- 95% donate to the Church
- 91% spend time in prayer every day
- 82% currently volunteer for the Church
- 82% consider themselves to be passionate Catholics after participating in SPO, compared to 32% before participating*
- 27% now serve the Church full time (priest, religious, SPO, youth ministry, parish work, etc.)
- 2% Divorce rate
* Choices: Passionate Catholic, Practicing Catholic, Non-observant Catholic, Christian (not Catholic), Atheist/Agnostic, Other
Who Does St. Paul Outreach Want? As an SPO Missionary you will be on the “front lines” evangelizing university students on one of our campuses. You will be a RADICAL Catholic Disciples of Jesus Christ, a BOLD WITNESSES filled with the Spirit, a SERVANT LEADER who are joyful & generous. What Will You Be Doing? REACHING out to college students on campus through authentic friendships and a healthy college community. CALLING college students to embrace salvation in Christ. FORMING tomorrow’s leaders to maturity in the Catholic faith so they embrace it for themselves. SENDING these individuals out as new Missionaries to their peers.
Why We Need You:
“I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security…” -Pope Francis
College students in a special way need to know that only the Lord satisfies the deepest desires of our hearts. College campuses are the battlegrounds for the minds and souls of young people, with an outcome that will affect them or the rest of their lives. Of the 4,500 total universities in the U.S., only 800 have full-time ministry staff. “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.” (Matthew 9:37).
The story of one of the missionary disciples, Lauren Volkart, is provided below. Lauren was active at near-by Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ.
In John 16:33, Jesus exhorts his disciples that, “in the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” There are many ways that this word of Jesus takes shape in the life of a missionary on a college campus.
We take courage in the face of approaching random people on campus and attempting to show them the love of Christ in big ways and small ways, in silent acts of intercession and service, in having conversations with committed students about growing in their own walk with Jesus, and in building a community of missionary disciples. It is a privilege to walk with the Lord each day, and to bring Jesus to such a large public school such as Rutgers.
Part of really loving a person is knowing them, and the missionaries at Rutgers use our time getting to know students and forming relationships with them. In this way, we are able to show students the steadfast love that Christ has for them as well, beginning to open the door to that relationship with Jesus.
Loneliness is an obstacle that this generation of college students faces every day. With the rise of social media and other ways of ‘connecting’ it has become easier to put on a façade of happiness, when in reality there is a deeper longing for community and connection, placed in the human heart by the Lord himself, which goes unfulfilled.
As missionaries of St. Paul’s Outreach at Rutgers University, New Brunswick,we present to these students a community and a person, Jesus, who can break those barriers down and fill us all with true joy and freedom if we are willing to take courage and take a step off the boat when Jesus calls. Our ministry focuses on relational evangelization, one-on-one, from me, to us as a community, to Jesus. It may not sound like the most economical way to reach people, but is the way that the Lord himself chose. We truly get a front row seat to watch the Lord work in people’s lives, from radical conversion moments to the day-to-day spiritual growth. Investing in people’s lives is beautiful, and it has proven to be an effective way to draw people to Christ by being his hands and feet and meeting students where they are.
What it all boils down to is the incredible reality that part of my job is getting to see people fall in love with God and rejoicing in that truth, while at the same time maintaining that spiritual zeal and remembering that, “mission is a constant stimulus not to remain mired in mediocrity but to continue growing,” (Evangelii Gaudium, Article 121). The testimony of almost every missionary, every disciple, contains the story of a person who loved them first, therefore we are all seeking to live in the words of St. John the Evangelist, “we love because he first loved us,” ( 1 Jn 4:19). So, we take courage in that fact as missionaries that we are being sent to live in the universal call of the church in a particular way in this season of our lives to make more disciples of Jesus and they in turn can love others as they have been loved.
Lauren Volkart is a Mission Leader at Rutgers Campus Ministry
The testimony of almost every missionary, every disciple, contains the story of a person who loved them first, therefore we are all seeking to live in the words of St. John the Evangelist,“we love because he first loved us,” (1 Jn 4:19).