Father Michael Schmitz
Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota
Father Michael is the director of the Youth and Youth Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Duluth and the chaplain for the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD). He is winning over countless young people to Christ—literally throughout the world. The Newman Center’s website, “Bulldog Catholic,” has more than 40,000 visits per month. Father Michael draws thousands to his conference presentations. At one conference this year, he spoke to 19,000 students. His timely and relevant “Ascension Presents” videos have been viewed more than one million times.
Father Michael has held these positions for 14 years and has built up many ministries. For youth, he manages confirmation retreats, an annual week-long mission trip, Camp Survive for middle schoolers and three Totus Tuus teams serving 21 parishes.
He keeps the UMD students active in the Church with daily Mass, reconciliation, bible studies, RCIA, a daily “Holy Hour”, adoration, retreats, outreach events and service opportunities. Mass attendance has grown from one Sunday Mass with fewer than 100 participants to two Sunday Masses with more than 400 in attendance.
One of Father Michael’s joys in working with young people is seeing their decisions bear fruit in their lives. Junior and Senior high students establish a life of prayer and begin making daily decisions through prayer. The college students make mature decisions to choose the light of Christ by turning away from poor relationships or life choices and choosing to live their college career serving others and fostering their relationship with Christ. After college, they continue to serve the Church as missionaries, youth ministers or participate in young adult programs.
“Recognizing the crisis of loneliness and the crisis of meaninglessness today, there is almost nothing more powerful than being able to communicate to a young person a dynamic and life-changing relationship with God and with His Church,” he said.
Curtis Martin, founder of FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students), said, “Father Michael has played a critical role in raising up leaders. He has inspired tens of thousands who have seen him and heard him speak. He has invested in college students, calling them to Christ-like leadership. He is a vibrant, self-giving, sincere, compassionate and above all, humble man.”
Benjamin Foster, a youth leader who Father Michael guided, is now the director of youth ministry and religious education at St. Michael’s Catholic Church. “Father Mike has been a great gift to me and many students, as well as all the Catholics and non-Catholics that he reaches through his homily podcasts, conferences, speaking engagement and social media. Many strong Catholic students have come out of UMD’s Newman Center because of the formation and direction of Father Mike, including many graduates who actively participate in parish life,” he said.
Father Michael is also an advocate for vocations. Inspired by his leadership, at least six women have entered religious life, three men have become priests and six other men are currently seminarians.
He is having an enormous impact in engaging youth and shaping the Church in his diocese and beyond.