College Ministry purchases building for national headquarters
Peter DeMarais of St. Paul’s Outreach is a huge fan of cafes, but he’s cutting back considerably these days. A new building the ministry bought and moved in last month means it no longer has to find space in local cafes to hold meetings.
This is the first time in the organization’s 36-year history that it has owned a building. The 14,000 square foot facility in Mendota Heights will serve as SPO’s national headquarters, including offices for staff members such as DeMarais, as well as meeting rooms, a chapel, and an audio and video recording studio that will enable the growth of digital media production. The total cost of the project is around $ 2 million, with funding from the ministry’s Faith Alive campaign, a national effort that raised $ 16 million.
“There’s something about a space that’s unique to you,” said DeMarais, regional manager for Minnesota and son of SPO founder Gordy DeMarais. “This is a place where we can truly establish and represent what we hope SPO will be for many years to come in this Archdiocese and in this country. “
The organization has grown steadily since its inception in 1985, catering to students and extending to young adults up to the age of 30. There are SPO chapters and homes in nine states, including the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul and the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. SPO has 170 full-time employees in Minnesota and other cities in the United States where the department is present. The new building will host gatherings of staff from Minnesota and elsewhere, and provide a place to hold training sessions for missionaries.
“I’m telling you, this building has completely transformed our culture,” said Gordy DeMarais. “We’re thrilled. It’s a great gift, and it will really improve our ability to reach more students and (young) adults.
“We feel like we are entering a new season at SPO,” he said. “We have put together some core beliefs that we have for this new season and have really focused on renewing our relationship with the Lord and our trust in Him as the foundation of our work.”
As SPO continues to expand its ministry, a key area of growth will be digital media, an area that has become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic, with students across the country embracing distance learning by 2020. SPO has adapted, filming its conference and broadcasting it online.
“We believe that getting more into the digital space with things like this, and developing digital content, producing digital content and sending it, is going to help us take advantage of our growth nationwide,” Gordy DeMarais said. “If you want to reach this generation, this has to be a place the organization needs to invest – to put quality products out there. “
Yet the foundation of SPO is and always will be to foster people-to-people interactions and to build relationships. It helps students connect with their faith at a time in life when many are abandoning their spiritual roots. It also helps them plan a lifelong pursuit to follow God and be active in the Church.
Peter DeMarais is one example. He lived in an SPO men’s house while attending St. Thomas University and was “surrounded by a bunch of guys who knew where they were going and lived their whole lives around the Lord.” It was a new experience for him, and it led him to decide 10 years ago to work for SPO. Bishop Andrew Cozzens, who blessed the new building on October 14, is also a former SPO.
“I can’t believe I’m still in missionary work,” said Peter DeMarais. “It’s just an amazing gift every day to say that this is always what God called me to do.”
Category: Local news