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St. Lawrence Center to team up with St. Paul’s Outreach

From left, Sarah Hemman, Sarah Agorua and Brett Braza laugh at the Kansas City Colleges SPO Chapter Hog Roast during Welcome Week. St. Paul’s Outreach will become a new mission partner to the St. Lawrence Center at the University of Kansas in Lawrence at the start of the 2024-25 school year. PHOTO BY KELSEY GROSS

by Molly McKeithan
Special to The Leaven

LAWRENCE — The start of the 2024-25 school year will bring changes to the St. Lawrence Center at the University of Kansas here as the center welcomes new mission partners St. Paul’s Outreach (SPO) to campus. Over the course of the last two years, St. Lawrence has been in discernment and discussion on what the partnership would mean for the student center and if they would work well together.

“KU is a very difficult but exciting mission field,” said Father Mitchel Zimmerman, director and chaplain at the St. Lawrence Center.

With a focus on radical evangelization, the St. Lawrence Center currently runs both Newman and Fiat houses as a part of its ministry, which allows students to serve as student leaders, live a life with intentional prayer and find ways to connect with students on the fringes of Catholicism.

“Over the past few years, we have seen an organic movement of students opting to live in similar expressions of missional households,” said Nick Labrie, director of Missionary Discipleship at the St. Lawrence Center.

“Whether in our St. Lawrence-run Newman and Fiat Houses or in apartments and houses around Lawrence, our students are hungry for this intentional life of community, prayer and outreach,” he added. “We believe that a partnership with SPO is an organic next step in nurturing and amplifying this movement.”

Starting next fall, SPO will provide four full-time missionaries to live with students in the homes that St. Lawrence currently operates as the Newman and Fiat houses. This number will increase to six full-time missionaries over the course of the next three years.

“In the first year, our SPO missionaries and students in household at KU will aim to be in contact with over 1,000 students on campus, with as many as 200 experiencing our men’s and women’s environments,” said Brigitte Pinsonneault, director of operations for SPO Kansas City. “We plan to be strategic in reaching the corners of campus so that students on the ‘fringes’ will be met and won over by Jesus.”

For some students, this will be their first time interacting with SPO, but others are excited to continue their journey with SPO. Garrett Clifford, a junior studying marketing, attended the Ascend conference hosted by SPO two years ago and encountered Jesus Christ in the Eucharist for the first time.

“It shocked me and opened up my eyes to what my faith could be and how I could love God,” Clifford said. “Seeing that for the first time, getting to share the joy for the Lord, was a really cool experience, and I am very excited for them to have a spot on campus.”

Clifford is a current member of the Newman House but says that he would be “overjoyed” to get to live with the missionaries next year because of their model of creating household environments where students are empowered to reach out to people.

The SPO model consists of four steps: reach, call, form and send.

“We reach students and young adults by building relationships and community through relational evangelization,” said Nick Redd, director of SPO Kansas City. “We call students and young adults to embrace faith in Jesus Christ and his church through weekly small groups, prayer events and retreats. We form them to maturity in the Catholic faith and life through households and SPO’s formation program. And we send them out on mission as leaders.”

To date, the St. Lawrence Center has already had many students apply for the opportunity to live with the SPO missionaries, and they are excited to get to share the message of the Gospel.

“No matter who lives in the house next year, it is going to be a great group,” Clifford said. “With the help of SPO, KU will be changed, people will see God in a new way and people will be challenged to share their hearts with God in a new way.

“I am really excited to see that happen.”

About the author

The Leaven

The Leaven is the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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