Students grow spiritually in Catholic housing community

Saint Paul’s Outreach has set up two households on campus – one for males and one for females.

Courtney Sinner

Jenna Krause isn’t a morning person, but she gets up at 7 a.m. three days a week – and not for class.

The English and Spanish languages senior gets up with her roommates three mornings a week to pray together for nearly an hour as part of a community on campus that lives, eats, and prays together to support one another’s faith.

The household – set up by Saint Paul’s Outreach, a campus ministry program started at the University of St. Thomas in 1985 – is one of two at the University; one for women and one for men.

In addition to morning prayer, the households also plan dinners together three nights a week, take on assigned chores in the house, go to mass a few times a week and participate in other discipleship groups.

Krause said that while all the commitment can be hard, it’s worth it.

“I used to just go to mass on Sundays. But when it hurts to believe and it’s a sacrifice to discipline yourself, it’s so much better,” she said. “It’s hard, but hard isn’t necessarily bad.”

One of the biggest reasons for living in the house is because it provides a “built-in support system,” said Lauren McGowan, one of Krause’s three roommates.

McGowan’s faith was already a big part of her life coming in as a first-year student, the accounting junior said, but she found herself starting to “slack off.”

“Sophomore year, I started getting myself back into shape, so to speak,” McGowan said. “It’s hard to make that commitment. You have to make it a priority.”

St. Paul’s Outreach’s presence at the University is small, but growing. At St. Thomas, there are three houses each for men and women, but this is the first year the University has had demand for households, at all.

Last year, Krause lived in a household of women at St. Thomas since there wasn’t a house at the University, and commuted every day for classes.

In addition to living in the households, some of the students stay involved with the St. Lawrence Catholic Church and Newman Center on campus, leading discipleship groups or being peer ministers.

Sophomore Matt Jahnke said he made the leap to the households because he wanted a “24/7” Catholic lifestyle.

“The difference is the opportunity to really live out a life of Christian discipleship and have it in all areas of my life,” Jahnke said.

Krause said she simply wanted more than the Newman Center could offer at the time.

“I didn’t want it to be a once a week thing,” she said. “I wanted to come home to that environment and continue to be challenged.”

Dan Kolar, a 2006 St. Thomas graduate who lived in a men’s household for five years while in school, now serves as a leader and mentor while living with the men at the University.

The idea of “bridging the gap” between faith life and daily life is a mission pushed by St. Paul Outreach, Kolar said.

“Most people are drifting from having their belief system influence their daily living,” he said. “If you are a Christian and you really want to live the gospel, it should have impact in your daily life.”

“It’s not a just-feel-like-it thing,” Krause said. “For me, it was like if I’m going to believe what I believe, if I’m really going to do this, then I’m going to give up my life for Him.”

The students are the first to stress, however, that their lives aren’t as strict as they sound.

“We definitely have fun, but it’s not like we go seeking out frat parties or keggers,” Krause said.

The household structure actually creates more freedom, Kolar said. Since they all have a common vision, there is a sense of trust and respect.

“We’re not as stressed out about our roommates coming home drunk or people stealing stuff or random people being in our house,” Kolar said. “There are still random people in our house every once in a while, but we just like to establish a dependability that people can rely on.”

That dependable, community relationship is what the students find to be one of the most beneficial aspects of their lifestyle.

“These are true friendships,” Krause said. “It’s goofy and mundane at times, but we also talk about the deeper longings of our lives and our faith lives. It’s so rich. It’s beautiful.”