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Priest's mission: Challenge parishioners to live 'what we believe'

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

A familiar face to several in the Hays area will be the featured speaker at the annual Heartland Parishes Lenten mission hosted this year by Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish.

Father Godfrey Mullen, a Benedictine priest from St. Meinrad Monastery in St. Meinrad, Ind., will have several presentations during his stay in Hays.

He will talk at 7 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, with alternative 9 a.m. sessions Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for those who can't make the evening ones. All sessions will be at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church.

Mullen said the mission will be "about living what we believe."

His talks will include "how God speaks to us in the sacraments and how the Eucharist shapes our lives."

Mullen said Wednesday's finale will be a challenge of "going out and living what we believe and what we celebrate."

Numerous students from Heartland Parishes in Hays have attended summer weeklong conferences for several years at St. Meinrad, where Mullen is the director of the One Bread, One Cup Eucharistic Conferences.

Mullen grew up in Illinois and graduated from St. Meinrad College with a bachelor's degree in history in 1988, the same year he entered the monastery. He was ordained a priest in 1994 and became pastor of St. Mary Parish in Huntington, Ind., last summer.

The Heartland missions rotate among different parishes in Hays each year, and with this being IHM's turn, Rick Binder, youth ministry coordinator at Immaculate Heart, thought of Mullen.

"I thought this would be a good opportunity to hear someone who could really inspire people," said Binder, who through the years has taken more than two dozen students to the OBOC conference.

Caden Junk, a member of IHM's Catholic Youth Organization until graduating from Hays High School in 2011, attended the OBOC conference the summer before his senior year in high school.

He called the trip to Indiana "one of the best weeks of my life" and has kept in touch with other students with whom he built relationships during the OBOC conference.

Junk is making a trip home this weekend from Lawrence, where he is a sophomore at the University of Kansas, for the chance to see Mullen again.

"It was an awesome week because you have no distractions and can really focus on your faith," Junk said. "And (Mullen) is a great speaker."

In addition to the sessions at IHM, Mullen also will visit Thomas More Prep-Marian Junior-Senior High School on Tuesday and speak to the student body at 2 p.m.

Barb Wagoner, campus minister at TMP, also has attended the OBOC conference in Indiana and is looking forward to his visit.

"Father Godfrey is the heart of this ministry and has an amazing way of relating to youth as he shares a vibrant love for the Catholic church," she said. "I cannot tell you how delighted we are to have Father Godfrey come to TMP."