You Will Be My Witnesses: Father Mike Schmitz ’99

Father Mike Schmitz ’99
Diocese of Duluth
UMD Newman Center (Duluth, MN)

What brought you to SJV?
I went to St. John’s University for an undergraduate degree in theology. After graduation, I was a missionary on the border between Belize and Guatemala teaching at a Catholic high school and had a big conversion there. That’s why I discerned coming to the seminary. I had one year of pre-theology at St. John Vianney. Bishop Peter Christensen, my rector, was the faculty resident on my floor. It was a great gift to have him there! SJV introduced me to seminary life and all the ways I would be called to be a man of Christ, man of the Church, and man for others.

Tell us about the Newman Center in Duluth.
I was assigned to UMD in 2005, two years after I was ordained, and we’re based out of this little house. I thought, “We’re going to focus on three things: retreats, sacraments as often as possible, and small groups.” It started out with maybe 6-10 people at daily Mass and now it’s 60-90. It’s just incredible! But they’re crammed into a two-car garage that we converted to a chapel. Students will show up for daily Mass, and there’s literally no place to sit. We want to have a beautiful space where every one of those students has a place.

Does the project have a namesake or patron?
Right now, the working name of the chapel is Our Lady of Victory because of her historical role in the Battle of Lepanto. We recognize that our modern world is not one where we’re surrounded by a friendly culture. In fact, it’s a lot like the culture where Christianity began. We want to address the ignorance of the Church’s teaching by bringing truth and beauty and goodness to the world. To address indifference by bringing meaning to the world. To address antagonism by speaking the truth in love and inviting people into a beautiful space to share God’s Word and the teachings of the Church with them.

We’re also going to have at least a side chapel for Our Lady of Sorrows. No matter how much victory the Lord grants us or how many blessings the Lord bestows upon us, our lives will always be marked by the Cross. Sorrow will always be a part of life. But it’s not empty sorrow. It’s sorrow with Our Lord and sorrow with His Mother who has been given to us.

How can we help?
If you’d like to support the ministry and expansion of the UMD Newman Center, please visit or reach out to Lauren Hopke.

Initial project concepts; subject to change.
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