Another woman in her 40s with dreams of becoming a parish pastoral associate or director.
A widening smile appears from both sides of Fr. Dave Beaudry’s moustache as he scans the diverse group gathered before him at Silver Lake College.
Elbows sliding to either side of his desk, Fr. Dave hunkers down, surrounded by nine students enrolled in his Christology (the study of Christ) class, and waits for the first question of the day.
“How much did Mary tell her son, Jesus, about his birth?” one student asks.
“Good question,” Fr. Dave says, as he rises, eager to push the discussion.
“Being an educator energizes me. I have a chance to see the students grow in their relationships with Christ and a chance to share not only my knowledge, but my experiences in the church,” said Fr. Dave, whose primary vocation is being pastor at Holy Spirit Parish in Kimberly and Darboy.
Fr. Dave is in his sixth year of teaching theology classes as an adjunct professor at Silver Lake College in Manitowoc.
“Teaching is a passion of mine. It is faith seeking understanding,” he said. “Ultimately, what I want to do is somehow be a catalyst for the students to grow and have a deeper understanding of their relationship with Christ. I want them to be able to, in a critical way, answer the question, ‘Who is Jesus?'”
Fr. Dave invariably displays a smile born of enthusiasm for and excitement in his Catholic faith.
“Fr. Dave is very, very passionate as a teacher. He is a happy man whose enthusiasm for teaching comes, I think, from his fulfillment in his work as a pastor,” said Sr. Maria Dim, 51, of Nigeria, who is studying to earn a degree in theology.
Prior to coming to Silver Lake College and Holy Spirit, Fr. Dave served as pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in nearby Newton.
He taught in the Emmaus spiritual renewal program for 25 years.
Fr. Dave came to Silver Lake College six years ago on a temporary basis to fill a philosophy instructor post in place of Sr. Mary DeSales Hoffman, who was ill with cancer. “I came here simply to help,” Fr. Dave said.
Sr. Hoffman died a short time later and Fr. Dave was asked to stay on as an instructor.
He said there is interplay in his roles as educator and pastor.
“Being an educator helps me at the parish level. It keeps me on my toes,” Fr. Dave said. “The students have a way of sharpening my mind and my intellect. They bring fresh insights that I can bring to my preachings.”
Questions from parish members often are the same questions he gets from students. Most recently he addressed similar questions from parish members and students about upcoming changes in the Mass.
Theology students come from a wide range of backgrounds, Fr. Dave said.
“They are typically seeking bachelor’s degrees in religious studies, but I’ve had business students, English and music students and sometimes seminarians, although it is an ecumenical class,” Fr. Dave said. “I have one ministry student hoping to be accepted in a Lutheran seminary. But this class is the study of Christ so we are all pretty much on the same page.”
Sr. Maria Dim, whose full middle name, Echezonachuwu, translates to “do not forget God,” said she is also pursuing a minor in psychology and hopes to return to Nigeria after graduation to act as a spiritual director and social worker in her country.
She appreciates the role Fr. Dave’s parish experience plays in her preparation for the future.
“He has a wealth of experience and knowledge from the parish rather than just book knowledge,” said Sr. Maria, a member of the Immaculate Heart of Mary order.
Gail Eichhorn, who lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and whose goal is to be a pastoral associate or parish director, called Fr. Dave a forward thinker.
“I appreciate that in him,” Eichhorn said. “He has given us good background into the roots of things like the changes in the Mass.”
“We are all different ages here, but Fr. Dave is very open-minded. He speaks to the young people and he speaks to students like myself who are middle aged,” Eichhorn said.