Newman Catholic Student Center welcomes new resident priest

DeKALB — The Newman Catholic Student Center has a new resident priest who is ready to preach to the NIU student body.

Rev. Sean Grismer, the new priest in residence, has been living at the Newman Center since mid-June. Prior to being here on campus, Grismer was an associate pastor at St. Bridget Catholic Church in Loves Park. Grismer said that going from preaching in a typical city like Loves Park to being on campus has been an adjustment.

Moving to DeKalb

“The first thing is that there is a lot of corn,” Grismer said. “It’s just corn fields all around! I thoroughly enjoy it though, the change is of course there. I really enjoy the atmosphere of the Newman Center, this is really a place of refreshment for me. Being there on Sunday, celebrating the mass, being present and hanging out with some of the college students and some of the other parishioners is sort of the best of both worlds.”  

Differences between the St. Bridgets and the Newman Center have presented themselves to Grismer, specifically with people’s attitudes. 

“Sometimes in a parish, there is a vast difference in ages so there are a lot of preconceived notions of who Jesus is and things like that,” Grismer said. “For most college students if they’re at the church they’re like ‘tell us more.’”

The college difference

Grismer has been preaching to people of all ages throughout his career, but said he thrives when preaching to young people. He lives at the Newman Center, but much of his time is spent in Aurora, his hometown, at the Aurora Central Catholic High School preaching to students. This experience is working to his benefit here at NIU.

“I find it actually easier to speak to college students and preach to them,” Grismer said. “The whole college experience, whatever that means to anybody, is always fulfilled in Jesus Christ. I know that if they are there, at mass, there is some semblance in them looking for more. I find that very refreshing to speak to because I know they’re open to it.”

Grismer said he has found the change in company here on campus to be quite refreshing, and it seems that students are feeling the same way when it comes to him. Thomas Shaw, who works with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, or FOCUS at the Newman Center, said he has noticed different students’ reactions to Grismer.

“Last Thursday, we went to the NIU football game, we tailgated before it,” Shaw said. “There was a group of  ten girls that were like ‘there’s a priest here, let’s get a picture with him!’ They all wanted to get a picture with Father Grismer.”

Positive initial reception

David Gonnella, the parochial administrator at the Newman Center, and Grismer’s roommate at the rectory has found him to be a wonderful addition to the center.

“I’ve known Sean for a long time,” Gonnella said. “We’ve been good friends for a long time, he is always just a very fun person to be around, very joyful. He’s just a good man, and a person people like to be around.”

It hasn’t been an issue for Grismer to get comfortable here at NIU, but he’s going out of his way to make students comfortable at the Newman Center. Grismer uses unique preaching techniques when it comes to most priests, mixing humor and pop culture references in his homilies. 

“I think he is hilarious, he has a really high sense of humor,” Shaw said. “I think it is great. A lot of people see the mass or homilies as boring, which they’re not. Father Grismer really brings out boldness when preaching the gospel, so much that it makes people drawn to him.”