College doesn’t have to draw students away from their faith

Ethan Stueve, above, a senior at Kansas State University in Manhattan, started a Catholic podcast called “The Crunch” with a junior at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, before meeting him in person. PHOTO COURTESY OF ETHAN STUEVE

by Moira Cullings
moira.cullings@theleaven.org

OLATHE — Over 900 miles separate Ethan Stueve and Patrick Neve.

But neither the distance nor their busy college lifestyles have prevented the two from teaming up to share the Catholic faith with other young adults.

Stueve, a senior at Kansas State University in Manhattan, and Neve, a junior at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, had never met in person when they started their own Catholic podcast.

The pair first met online through Catholic Twitter, a place for young people to share their faith. At the time, many of the participants were anonymous, including Neve and Stueve.

“I didn’t want to just do Twitter,” said Stueve, a parishioner at St. John Paul II Parish in Olathe.

He had bigger dreams for spreading the faith.

When Stueve tweeted his hope to create a podcast for young adults, he immediately received a response from Neve. At the time, the two didn’t even know each other’s names.

But their simple vision quickly turned into a regular podcast called “The Crunch,” which features a new episode each Sunday.

It wasn’t until four months after their podcast took off that the two met in person at the Fellowship of Catholic University Students SEEK conference in San Antonio this past winter.

“It was like meeting an old friend again,” said Stueve.

The pair uses Google Hangout to record “The Crunch.” Despite their short acquaintance, their chemistry makes listeners feel they are listening to exactly that — old friends.

“Our plan was and has been to talk about our lives, give each other advice and hope it helps people with similar problems,” said Neve.

Neve and Stueve draw from their own experiences as they discuss a different topic each week in a conversational tone.

Topics range from prayer to the saints to the challenges of young people today.

“We try and talk about them in an open and honest way so people can understand that there are other young adults struggling where you’re struggling,” said Stueve.

With a dose of humor and relatable conversations, the two have expanded their audience from about 200 subscribers to 1,300.

“The Crunch” has gained recognition nationally and was listed as one of EpicPew’s “Catholic Podcasts You Should Be Listening To.”

“As social media becomes more a part of life, it’s becoming more important for Christ to be there,” said Neve.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean in the form of Catholic celebrity accounts,” he continued, “but it means being more Christian on social media.”

Neve and Stueve understand the challenges of making the faith a priority as a young adult — especially in college.

Both young men have their hands full: Neve, studying theology and communications; Stueve, studying electrical engineering.

“You get sucked into a college culture that moves so fast and moves pretty quickly away from the teachings of the church,” said Stueve.

But if you have time for Netflix, he said, you can make time for prayer.

“College is not this insurmountable hurdle that prevents you from growing in your faith,” said Stueve.

“College can be used as an asset to take time that you don’t have when you’re an adult to grow in your faith,” he added.

Stueve finds inspiration in the example of his parents and siblings, who are active members of St. John Paul II Parish.

But his main motivation to bring other young people closer to Christ comes from a sense of responsibility.

“It’s what we’re called to do as Christians,” said Stueve. “Everybody has the capability to evangelize and spread their faith in their own circles.

“Not a lot of people are given the opportunity to spread the faith how I am able to — through Twitter and the podcast and those types of things.”

But both Stueve and Neve agree that reaching people on social media should be an essential mission of the church.

“That’s the frontier of the new evangelization,” said Stueve.

“If we’re not taking advantage of it or we’re taking advantage of it poorly,” he continued, “then we’re doing a disservice to the young people in our society.”

You can find “The Crunch” on iTunes and Google Play or by visiting the website at: www.thecrunchcast.com.

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