By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Raiden Takeuchi is extending his college years in an effort to bring young men into the fullness of the Catholic faith.
The Solon native is a missionary for St. Paul’s Outreach (SPO) at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. SPO missionaries live in community with Catholic students in men’s and women’s houses and reach out on campus through relational ministry. “It’s been a blessing,” said the 24-year-old.
Raiden became acquainted with SPO while studying vocal music education at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. “When I came to college, I was coming off a rough summer. There were some deaths in the family. I wanted to be involved with my faith and find Catholic brotherhood.”
While participating in a Newman Catholic Student Center event, he ran into some SPO missionaries who lived in community with other Catholic men on campus. At first, Raiden “blew them off,” but a couple weeks later, he ran into one of the missionaries again. “I was surprised he remembered my name… I agreed to come to the men’s house for breakfast and morning prayer and participate in praise and worship after.” He was “super struck” by how normal the other men were, and how on fire they were for their faith. “This is where I want to be,” Raiden concluded. He moved into the men’s house during his sophomore year and stayed there until graduation, first as a student and later as a missionary.
Last year, SPO assigned Raiden to serve at the Florida university. He leads the SPO men’s house there, sharing household duties with 10 other men and engaging in daily prayer. Missionaries and students in the house reach out to students on campus in a variety of ways. “We build relationships with people, Catholic or not, and try to speak to them about Jesus. Loneliness is a big problem on campus, especially coming out of the pandemic.”
In an effort to build relationships with students, SPO organizes social sporting events on campus several nights a week. They extend invitations to dinner at the SPO house, small-group Bible studies, retreats, praise and worship and other events. People are more open to attending such events if a relationship has already been established, Raiden observes.
Listening to people and caring about their lives is essential to building these relationships, Raiden said. If he asks someone how they’re doing and they give a one-word answer, he tries to dig deeper to see how they’re really feeling — just as the missionaries at the University of Minnesota did for him.
“All I do is try to be an instrument in the hand of the Lord. Sometimes it is awesome and feels good,” Raiden said. Other times, “your heart is broken by what people are going through.” It can be discouraging if an evangelization effort seems to be going nowhere, but knowing that God is the ultimate initiator of grace in people’s lives helps relieve some of those helpless feelings. “It’s given me more faith and trust in the Lord.”
Raiden plans to stay in the ministry for at least another year. After that, he isn’t sure what he’ll do, but he is open to answering God’s call, whatever that may be. “I won’t be a missionary for my whole life, perhaps, but from this experience has come a greater desire to say ‘yes’ to the Lord.”