Share this story

 | By Marybeth Hicks

“Nobody on campus is having more fun than we are.”


That’s one of the key messages Father Gale Hammerschmidt stresses when speaking to his parishioners at St. Isidore’s Catholic Student Center in Manhattan, Kansas. “Fun and contentment,” he says. “I stress contentment because the world promises one kind of contentment, but what we are offering is really true contentment.”

With all the pressures they face as college students, Father Gale says young adults need the message that they can be content while also holding other emotions: “I’m content in the Lord even if I’m kind of sad. Even when times are tough. That’s something that brings me joy, even if I’m not feeling overjoyed.” College is a uniquely important season to pursue that kind of intrinsic joy.

Reaching college students and helping them trust the Lord’s path for their lives is the heart of St. Isidore’s mission of formation, but it’s also about creating a sense of community. Father Gale says that is partly a reflection of the welcoming attitude they experience when they become involved in parish life.

“We open our arms to anyone who wants to understand that path for their own life, and we also create an opportunity for students to become friends with others who they would never have met — never have hung out with,” he says. “Social life is huge for college students, and St. Isidore’s kids are building community across our campus.” Father Gale believes the idea that Kansas State University (KSU) Catholics are having fun reflects the inherent joy of their faith.

Ministries connect students with each other and the larger community

Nowhere is the message about fun more evident than in the many formation opportunities and ministry offerings that attract hundreds of KSU students every school year. From Bible studies and programs offered by St. Isidore’s staff, to alternative spring breaks such as Christ in the City, serving the poor in Denver, and infrastructure projects with Bridges in Peru, to Saturday service hours in “the little Apple,” students have myriad ways to learn about and live out their Catholic faith. RCIA director and editor of St. Isidore’s magazine Andy Brandt says the parish offers “way more programs than one person could reasonably attend.”

“One Saturday we had 75 students show up to serve in
a variety of ways. They were sent all across town to help the homeless, paint houses, visit the elderly,” Andy says. “Our students are on a search for more.”

One way to reach out to students and invite them to become involved is through St. Isidore’s magazine, a biannual publication sent to students, permanent residents, alumni, donors and friends of the parish. With a circulation of 11,750, the magazine is part of an integrated communications and development plan that connects students to the parish, but also demonstrates to the larger community how important it is to support its mission and ministries.

Young adults still read magazines

A misperception about young adults is that they are interested only in digital formats, but according to New Media Alliance’s 2023 Market Report, 90 percent of adults ages 18 to 24 had read a magazine in the six months prior to being surveyed. A vast majority of readers still enjoy the look and feel of a print magazine. 

But Father Gale believes the success of St. Isidore’s magazine is simpler than that: “Kids love to pick it up and see the pictures of them and their friends!” Highlighting student activities with engaging photography draws readers in and conveys the spirit of the parish.

The magazine also serves a crucial purpose for development.
“We use it to do outreach to students but also to demonstrate to our permanent community how important their financial support is to us. The magazine goes out just a few weeks before our major fundraising efforts such as our phone-a thon, and it helps put the Catholic center at the forefront of people’s minds when we call them for donations,” Father Gale says. Through the generous contributions of its entire community toward a $12 million capital campaign, St. Isidore’s recently finished a complete rebuilding of its campus, highlighted in the pages of its magazine. “We want to show our donors that their contributions are being put to good use.”

Home away from home

For Catholic students at KSU, St. Isidore’s strives to be their home away from home.
“It is my mission to let you know that you have a home here, and not only here at St. Isidore’s, but also here in the Catholic Church,” Father Gale tells students on the parish website.

Making students welcome and helping them feel at home is working. Every weekday evening during the school year, St. Isidore’s 9:09 p.m. Mass finds more than 300 students gathering to pray together and receive the Eucharist. Whether for adoration, spiritual direction, social activities, or to just study quietly in the lounge, students gravitate to
the Catholic center to find the same things they expect at home — acceptance and love.

“What do young Catholics want?” asks Andy. “They want to be known and loved. And beyond that they’re hungry to understand and communicate their faith even in ways they themselves don’t recognize.”