by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Perhaps, when they knocked on Joe Heschmeyer’s door, the traveling missionaries thought they had found a hot prospect.
They did. Just not in the way they thought.
A few years ago, when he was a law student and then an attorney, Heschmeyer and two friends used to regularly invite Mormon missionaries to dinner.
“It was really a wonderful experience,” he said. “[My friends] lived near one of the headquarters, for lack of a better word, of the Mormon missionaries in northern Virginia. We’d talk about the faith over dinner. These were very friendly conversations, but ones where we asked hard-hitting questions that, hopefully, raised some questions.”
Later, he wrote about it on his blog. He gave tips on how to treat missionaries and types of questions to ask. It was so popular it was even picked up by the online blog version of the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper.
“There’s a chance I’m on a list somewhere in Salt Lake City,” he said.
Maybe. But there’s no doubt he’s on one list.
This fall, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students announced its list of “30 Under 30.” Heschmeyer is one of the FOCUS “30 young Catholics under the age of 30 who are making a difference in our church and in our world.”
The FOCUS 30 are divided into five categories: activists, artists, athletes, apostolates, new media and intellectuals. Heschmeyer is counted among the intellectuals.
Today, Heschmeyer, 28, is studying for the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis.
His online evangelization work on his blog, “Shameless Popery,” has gained a loyal following and been featured on several other blogs. He’s been interviewed on the Catholic radio’s “Son Rise Morning Show,” and been featured in the British Catholic newspaper, the Catholic Herald.
A peek at his blog shows why Heschmeyer was tapped for the “30 Under 30”: He has a lively, deep and passionate love for the Catholic faith.
It wasn’t always that way. There was time in Heschmeyer’s life when you could have called him a “pew potato.”
Heschmeyer grew up across the state line in Missouri, but went to Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park. During his freshman year, he was recruited for the debate team by an older friend, Andrew Strobl. Their parents were longtime friends, and the two boys had known each other their whole lives.
When Heschmeyer graduated in 2003, he followed Strobl to Washburn University in Topeka. Strobl, who turned out to be his dorm resident assistant, had meanwhile undergone a profound re-conversion to the Catholic faith.
Sometimes, on school breaks and weekends, they’d carpool to and from Topeka. During their 75-minute drives, Heschmeyer would pepper Strobl with questions.
“It was really neat,” said Father Andrew Strobl, ordained in 2009, and now associate pastor of Prince of Peace Parish in Olathe. “He had such a brilliant mind, always thinking and active, always curious.”
Heschmeyer graduated from Washburn in 2007 with a bachelor’s in history and minor in political communications. He next went to Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., where he graduated with a law degree in 2010 and practiced law in the District of Columbia office of Polsinelli and Shughart.
The beginning of his professional life didn’t mean an end to Heschmeyer’s desire to study the faith and to evangelize. He continued his blog, which he began as a student in 2009. He decided to discern whether or not he had a vocation to the priesthood, so he entered the seminary for the archdiocese in fall 2012. Currently, he’s a second-year pre-theology student and, if he continues, has four years to go.
Father Strobl was only a little surprised that Heschmeyer made the “30 Under 30” list. After all, he was one of three persons who nominated the seminarian.
“I think there’s a real connection with the new media, social media and the Millennial generation, and Joe as well as anyone uses it well,” said Father Strobl.
“On his blog, not only does he write great things when it comes to questions of the faith, apologetics and how best to share the faith, he engages people so well in the comments [section],” he continued. “Unlike a lot of apologetics blogs where the comments can be fiery and don’t exhibit enough charity, he really exhibits a ton of charity. . . . He has a lot of non-Catholics he treats with respect and takes them seriously.”
As a group, the “30 Under 30” is as impressive a gang of “wunderkinder” you could ever find. Interestingly, hardly any have a role in the church that could be described as “institutional.” They are entrepreneurs of the Catholic faith
“All of them are involved in some sort of campus outreach or group they formed themselves,” said Father Strobl. “[They] weren’t waiting for the church to say, ‘Here’s exactly what we want you to do.’ They were willing to go engage the culture, see a cause worth fighting for or talents to apply. They just did it.”