Catholic ministry looks to create spark on campus

If you asked juniors or seniors on Baker’s campus what they knew about the Catholic community here, most would not have any idea. For the past few years, the campus ministry for the Catholic Church has been almost completely invisible to students. However, all of that may be about to change.

This year several priests in the Kansas City diocese received re-assignments to different parishes. Father Chris Rossman was assigned to Church of the Annunciation here in Baldwin City. Rossman is originally from Ottawa, Kansas, and his sister attended Baker University in the 1990s.

Rossman knew he wanted to be a priest for the first time when he was in fourth grade. He thought about it off and on over the years and ended up attending Emporia State University to start an education degree. After dropping out to accept a job with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and working for a while, he had an epiphany one Christmas Eve Mass that becoming a priest was his calling.

Since then, he attended seminary and traveled the path that eventually led him to Baker. He hopes that, as he adjusts to having his home here in Baldwin City, he will be able to make some students feel comfortable with this as their home church. He said he is very enthusiastic about giving the college ministry a “reboot” here on campus.

“I want to have social events to bring people together and as the relationships develop the faith will come naturally,” he said.

He also plans on attracting a lot of students with food. On Sept. 1, Rossman hosted a Baker Catholics cookout at the Rectory, which doubles as his home and the Catholic Student Center, across the street from Case Hall.

“I’m looking forward to all the future events Father Rossman is having and just the opportunity to be able to connect with other Catholics on campus,” freshman Mitchell Lierz said after attending the cookout.

Rossman has several events in mind, including Wednesday evening Mass followed by an ice cream social, movie nights and sports such as flag football.

Junior Luke Miltz also attended the kick-off cookout and said that during his first two years he didn’t feel the presence of the Catholic Church here.

“I am excited by Father Rossman’s involvement on campus because it has given me the chance to learn a bit about the Catholic community,” Miltz said. “I look forward to seeing that community grow as part of the Baker experience.”

Rossman has several aptitudes that may come in handy with the remodeled ministry. He mentioned that he is tech savvy and this allows him to connect with younger generations. At his previous parish he created and established a new high school youth group format that was successful. The youth group had doubled in size by the time he was reassigned.

“It’s the people we meet along the way [of our journey] that shape our faith,” Rossman said.