Everyday Evangelization: Stories from Mount Michael

Our office received the following two stories as part of our effort to collect and highlight stories about how our Catholic schools are truly changing families and lives. More stories can be read here

I am Fr. John Hagemann, OSB, Campus Minister from Mount Michael Abbey and School. Several years ago, we started a program for seven-day boarders, many of whom are international students. A good number are not Catholic, but we require the same of them as we do our Catholic students: theology classes, services hours, and attendance at the Eucharist and other sacraments.

Yije(Jerry) Fan would always come to visit with me when we had scheduled Reconciliation services for our students. He had questions about faith and religion and how to deal with the struggles of being a student from a far-off country in an American Benedictine school. He has always been a great listener.

Because of his struggles, he developed a desire to become Catholic because he saw how his fellow students depended upon prayer, their families, and the faith of the community to become better people. He wanted something rock-solid that he could lean upon. He felt that becoming Catholic and a person of faith would do that for him.

Jerry started to take his theology classes seriously. It was no longer a matter of just reading facts and memorizing them. He credits his teachers with opening his eyes and helping him understand what faith is all about.

Jerry also looked to an older Chinese student who wanted to become Catholic as well. This gave Jerry support and assurance that this was really something he wanted to do.

Jerry was received into the Catholic church at Easter Vigil in 2018. It was a happy moment for him and his family.

Now Jerry is a reader for almost every Eucharist on the weekends at Mount Michael and is a faithful volunteer for care center visits. Along with other Mount Michael students, he has developed relationships with the residents of this care center.

Jerry is a good young man, who continues to seek further understanding about being a Catholic and really puts his faith into practice.

*Editor’s Note: Jerry was one of the two students featured in one of our recent Facebook Live videos. It was so neat to talk to him!

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It would be an understatement to say that a religious community which operates a boarding school has an effect upon its own students. In our case, Mount Michael Abbey’s monastic community indeed influences the students of Mount Michael Benedictine School.

Because the school requires all weekend boarders to attend the Eucharist, these students hear homilies by the monks and come to know who they are. The monks pray for these students and are family to them.  Mount Michael has numerous international students from eight countries with the highest percentage from China.

Junior Zhuyi (Joey) Chen has taken a liking to Abbot Theodore Wolff, OSB. Joey approached me years ago, asking if he could have a one-on-one meeting with one of the monks so that he could understand the Catholic faith better and do some Bible study. Since I had Abbot Theodore as my Novice Director many years ago, I thought he would be an excellent mentor for Joey.

Abbot Theodore celebrated his 90th birthday last August and perhaps is much more a grandfather figure for a 16-year-old boy- perhaps a wise elder and mentor. The two of them meet on Saturday mornings, solely for spiritual and religious reasons.

Although Joey has not decided to convert yet, his desire to learn more about the faith is sincere and comes directly from his heart. We speak of the baptism of desire, and perhaps that is where Joey is at this point in his life. Whatever it is, it certainly is a nice thing. Joey will certainly remember these meetings with a gentle and compassionate “old” monk, a grandfather figure and know that he will always be welcome to become a part of the Catholic church.


Fr. John Hagemann OSB