Campus center reboots

St. Lawrence Center looks to create greater awareness

by Jill Ragar Esfeld

LAWRENCE — About a thousand students, staff and faculty come through the doors of the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center here each week.

Hundreds more participate in the student ministry programs.

But for the center’s new development director Laurel Sharpe, that’s not enough.

“We want to bring more in,” she said. “We want to create more awareness.”

Re-branding is the main focus of the center now that Sharpe is on board.

“Revamping and revitalizing the development process here at the St. Lawrence Center really begins with creating better awareness and outreach,” she said.

Sharpe is committed to connecting with both alumni and benefactors, which means bridging generations.

She feels uniquely suited for the job.

“I’m a graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas [High School in Overland Park],” she said. “And I graduated from KU in 2004 — about the time Msgr. [Vince] Krische and Mike Scherschligt were here, and the School of Faith was formed.

“I went through that whole catechetical program. I think I was in the first class to have the actual catechetical certificate.

“Now I’m here with Father [Steve] Beseau. I have an understanding how the center is both the same, and moving in a new direction.”

After graduation from KU, Sharpe married fellow St. Thomas Aquinas graduate Steve

Sharpe, who played baseball for the Oakland Athletics.

She spent a number of years traveling with him.

“She knows more about baseball than I do, and I consider myself a fan,” said Sharpe’s co-worker, assistant director of campus ministry Tim Chapt-man.

During the baseball offseason, Sharpe helped the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity run its Montessori school in Kansas City, Kan., honing her skills in administration, development and fundraising.

Sharpe’s husband is now a scout for the Oakland team. When she accepted the position at the center, the couple settled in Lawrence with their eight-month-old adopted son Sam.

Imagine Sharpe’s relief when director Father Beseau saw no reason her role as development director should interfere with her responsibilities as a new mother.

“Probably one of the most beautiful things about working for a Catholic organization is the understanding that it’s God first, then your family and then your job,” she said.

For his part, Chaptman had nothing but praise for his new co-worker.

“I think she’s fantastic,” he said. “She’s got this incredibly kind heart, and she brings a lot of energy to the position.

“The students have commented on how helpful she is. I think they’ve really taken to her as well.”

Sharpe and Chaptman both emphasized that the focus in re-branding the center is not on changing, but improving.

An important part of that effort is establishing a broader board of directors.

“We hope to build it up to about 20-plus people and have seven committees that are far-reaching,” explained Sharpe.

With the board’s assistance, new events will be created to bring awareness to the center.

“We are dealing with a demographic of people that changes faster than any other demographic,” said Chaptman. “So we want to make sure we remain fresh, that we remain new.

“But we also want to remain true to our traditions.”

Both Sharpe and Chaptman expressed excitement about what’s already on the horizon.

A new brochure is being produced as a point-of-sale piece, helping staff and board members spread the word

Father Beseau has created a Catholic liberal arts education program accredited through the University of Kansas that he hopes to roll out next year.

Chaptman is equally excited about a program being developed  that will give students an opportunity each week to come together for some praise and worship music, an inspiring message and fellowship.

“It’s really a way to reach out to students who need a way back into the faith,” he said.

As always, the main goal of the St. Lawrence Center staff is to create a parish for students away from home.

“We’re all here for the students, to create awareness, to bring in funds, to support what they need to do to keep their faith alive,” said Sharpe.


About the author

Jill Esfeld

Jill Ragar Esfeld received a degree in Writing from Missouri State University and started her profession as a magazine feature writer, but quickly transitioned to technical/instructional writing where she had a successful career spanning more than 20 years. She returned to feature writing when she began freelancing for The Leaven in 2004. Her articles have won several awards from the Catholic Press Association. Jill grew up in Christ the King parish in Kansas City, Missouri; and has been a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, Kansas, for 35 years.

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