Father Drew Hoffman ministering to students of many dioceses at K-State

Fr. Hoffman at St. Isidore.

There’s a new guy on campus – and he’s wearing a Roman collar.

Father Drew Hoffman returned to college last summer, this time as an associate chaplain for St. Isidore’s Catholic Student Center at Kansas State University in Manhattan.

Because he was on campus several weeks before the fall semester, he was able to get to know many members of the “permanent” community.

“It was a great introduction to the kind of families who live in Manhattan – retired people who went to K-State 50 years ago and who go here now,” he said. “To get to know them over the summer was great.”

Work has been ‘awesome’

Since school started, however, the frantic pace has been non-stop, he said, adding that “it’s been awesome.”

Father Hoffman, who most recently was parochial vicar at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita, was assigned to the Diocese of Salina post to provide spiritual assistance for all the students but also as a way to stay connected to the many students from the Diocese of Wichita studying at KSU.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to reach out to them and show them that the Diocese of Wichita is really interested in investing in them,” he said. “A lot of our leaders here are Wichita kids from Bishop Carroll and Kapaun, but also from Hutchinson and McPherson and from a lot of other places in the diocese.”

His ministry is varied

In addition to celebrating Mass and assisting Father Gale Hammerschmidt, the chaplain at St. Izzy’s, Father Hoffman hears confessions several times a week to long lines of students.

He also leads a discernment group that meets on a regular basis, a Kapaun’s Men DVD series group and a women’s that meet weekly.

Fr. Hoffman said he also meets with students for spiritual direction or vocation direction.

“A lot of my day is students just wanting to stop and chat. They pop into the office. People I haven’t seen before and want to talk to a priest, which happens a lot with students.”

He also assists with marriage preparation, mostly for graduate students.

Many activities revolve around sports, he said. A couple of the K-State cross country athletes have organized a running club where 20 to 30 students will go for a run and return to the student center for snacks and conversation. Father Hoffman has attended several women’s volleyball matches to support the women on the team who are members of St. Isidore’s. And both the chaplains have been invited to stand on the sidelines during KSU football games.

On top of all that, the college parish hosts daily holy hours and overnight adoration on Wednesdays, he said.

Walking the campus daily

But Father Hoffman has another daily regimen that turns a few heads: he walks on campus praying the rosary wearing his clerics.

“It’s a daily, kind of requirement that I set for myself, which has really been awesome,” he said. “I just pray the rosary as I walk.”

He returns waves to students, some of whom he’s never seen, he said, and to those who attend Mass. “Often people have questions, people have concerns.”

Father Hoffman said he takes his daily walks on campus because that’s where the students are. “The students get psyched if they see their priest on campus. It lets me run into people I need to talk to but haven’t been able to for a host of reasons. And it gives non-Catholics the experience of a priest that they really haven’t had before.”

He said his work so far at St. Isidore’s has been “incredible.”

His ministry is reinforced by the 130 or so students who attend daily Mass, about 180 who attended a Thursday night Mass in Spanish, with a homily in English, and about 220 who attended a candlelight Mass Oct. 1 on the Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux.

“That’s one of the amazing things that’s going on here,” he said. “My experience is that it’s not more or less work than a regular parish, but it’s significantly different.

“You don’t deal with the same things that you would in a regular parish,” he said. “When there’s 20,000 plus students that you are in some way, shape, or form spiritually responsible for – even though, obviously, so many of them are not Catholic – there’s never going to be a lack of work.”