SAU grad went for baseball, came out with greater love for church

prior tom grad 2016 color
Anne Marie Amacher Tom Prior gives the thumbs up as he walked into the iWireless Center in Moline, Ill., for the St. Ambrose University commencement ceremony. The SAU grad will become a campus minister at Millikin University in Illinois.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Tom Prior chose St. Ambrose University as the place to do his undergraduate studies because of its baseball program.
He planned to study radio/television at the university. By his sophomore year he picked up an additional major — journalism. But he didn’t end there.
“I loved my theology courses. I thought about a minor, but ended up adding another major. And I am so glad I did.” He also added a minor in Catholic studies. Prior said if there had been enough time, he probably would have made that a major, too.
His involvement in theology and Catholic studies classes inspired his participation in campus ministry at the Catholic university. “I wish I had done it sooner.”
He played baseball his first three years at St. Ambrose, then opted not to play his senior year. That freed up a little more time for campus ministry.
When he graduated with his bachelor degrees in 2014, he didn’t leave the university. He decided to pursue a master’s in organizational leadership and worked as a graduate assistant in campus ministry. Prior worked with Kaitlin Depuydt, director of co-curricular service and justice ministry. He helped plan service opportunities locally and across the U.S. for students. “I might take five or six students to help rake lawns or serve food.”
During his first year as a graduate assistant he took a service trip to Port Ministries in Chicago. Other service trips were made to Detroit and St. Louis. “There are a lot of components to service,” Prior said.
For non-service projects on campus he worked on finding speakers for “Brewed Awakening,” a weekly discussion and coffee event. Topics chosen for the Monday night meetings related to social justice and current events. “We have great speakers on campus and in the Quad-City community,” he said.
On May 14 Prior graduated with his master’s degree. He moved back to his hometown of Bloom­ington, Ill., with his parents until he begins his new job Aug. 1 as director of campus ministry at Millikin University in Decatur, Ill.
This summer Prior will help do outreach for two Catholic parishes in Decatur through Facebook, Twitter, designing a newsletter and finding grants.
His job at Millikin is a new position created by the Diocese of Springfield, Ill. The university has more than 500 Catholic undergraduates among 2,400 students. “That’s a large Catholic population,” he said.
Father John Burnett will oversee Prior in the position. Prior says he basically has a “blank canvas” on which to work. “There is so much we can do.”
This fall, he and his fiancé, Emily, will marry at Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington. She works at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill.
“I had an amazing six years at St. Ambrose,” Prior said. His graduate experience with campus ministry “opened doors for my wanting to work in higher education and campus ministry. The Holy Spirit guided me here.”
Prior encourages college-bound students to get involved immediately in activities — including campus ministry. “You can meet others and it helps you be open to new experiences.”

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