By Eddie O’Neill
All it took was a Wednesday-night Mass at the Rolla Newman Center on the Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) campus, and Tom Kasza knew the Holy Spirit was alive in Rolla.
“I came to interview in March, and it was so inspiring to see the attentiveness and devotion of the young people at that Mass,” he said. “I knew good things were happening here.”
Mr. Kasza became the Newman Center’s director at the beginning of July.
He said his arrival is somewhat bittersweet. He became available to serve in Rolla after two years of campus ministry at Edinboro University in Edinboro, Pennsylvania. His departure there was due to a lack of funding for the Catholic ministry on behalf of the university.
“I was in charge of building the (Catholic) ministry there (at Edinboro) from the ground up,” Mr. Kasza explained. “So I know what it’s like to hold events and have no one come to them. Then, you have students that become regulars who I had very close relationships with, and that’s the part that is hard to leave.”
Desire to serve
The 29-year-old native of Ormond, Florida, said his love for ministry began while he was a student at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando.
“I knew I wanted to serve the Church for the rest of my life,” he said. “Most of that desire was born from prayer.”
For a while, he thought God was calling him to religious life.
“I thought that was my path to ministry,” he said. “But, through many hours of prayer over the next few years, God showed me that He wasn’t calling me to religious life.”
He became a student leader at UCF while studying civil engineering.
Upon graduation, he was off to St. Paul Outreach. Based in St. Paul, Minnesota, this Catholic outreach evangelizes students on college campuses.
He was stationed at the University of St. Thomas and St. Olaf’s College in the St.Paul/Minneapolis area.
Then it was off to Generation Life, where he was involved in pro-life and chastity talks and presentations before going to Edinboro.
He earned a masters of arts degree in theology through an online course at Franciscan University in Steubenville.
Mr. Kasza sees a strong connection between engineering and ministry. That is an especially good thing for someone arriving at a university steeped in science and engineering.
“There are many connections between engineering and ministry simply because God created everything with order,” he said. “The God Who created the laws of physics is the same God Who gave us the moral law through divine revelation.
“The engineering brain is usually good at understanding both physics and Catholic theology because both are incredibly consistent and orderly,” he added.
As he unpacks his boxes and settles in to his Rolla home, Mr. Kasza is excited to get started. Unlike his years at Edinboro, he will take over a ministry that is a well-oiled machine thanks to previous Newman Center directors — most recently Father Paul Clark, associate pastor of St. Patrick parish in Rolla and Holy Cross parish in Cuba.
“Whereas I was trying to get students just to be involved at Edinboro, here the students are already on board,” Mr. Kasza noted. “It will certainly be a change of pace for me. It looks like I will be delegating duties more than recruiting.”
He said that above all, his goal is to produce saints for the Church. With God on his side and with the strong support of Fr. David Veit, pastor of the Rolla and Cuba parishes, and Fr. Clark, nothing is impossible.
“At that first Wednesday Mass (and interview), I could see that the priests here were very devoted to the Eucharist, and I don’t think I could do this job without that,” said Mr. Kasza.