True to the mission: Gabe Gutierrez named TCU campus minister

North Texas Catholic
(Jul 20, 2020) Local

FORT WORTH — In the Texas Christian University Newman Center on Berry Street, a former retail space with horned-frog purple walls, Gabe Gutierrez is getting acclimated to his new office and position as TCU campus minister.

Gabe Gutierrez
Gabe Gutierrez (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

“I’m excited to get to know the community and start to build some relationships and get into the actual ministry side of things, however that ends up looking in this COVID-19 reality we currently find ourselves in,” he told the North Texas Catholic via videochat.

With schools and colleges facing challenges related to the pandemic, Gutierrez believes that this transitional time provides opportunities for new beginnings. With many years of ministry experience under his belt, and, most importantly, a passion for reaching out to the marginalized, Gutierrez hopes to help others feel loved by God.

With campus ministries facing the same difficulties as university campuses in this time of COVID, Gutierrez is leaning into the challenge of ministering during the pandemic. He and Newman Center staff are trying to figure out “what the parameters are so we can… make sure that we can be effective and still be true to our mission of helping the students here at TCU grow in their relationship with Christ.”

Previously, Gutierrez served for eleven years as youth minister at several parishes in the Diocese of Fort Worth, including St. Ann in Burleson, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Keller, and Good Shepherd in Colleyville. According to him, “there’s a lot of overlap” between youth ministry and campus ministry — but also some important differences. “The independence that a person in college is learning how to manage is quite different than the independence that a teenager in high school is dealing with.”

TCU students hold hands and pray the Our Father at Mass.

TCU students hold hands and pray the Our Father at Mass. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

Campus ministry is a more independent choice. “No one’s making you come. So… we’re already starting from a different place,” Gutierrez said.

He fondly recalled his own experiences with Catholic Campus Ministry at the University of Texas at Arlington. As the president of his fraternity, he lived in the fraternity house. Next door was the Catholic ministry center, but Gutierrez stayed away because he felt like he had “enough church” in his life. Eventually, though, he decided to try it out.

“I actually went because my brother kept pestering me to go,” he recalled. “And I went to Mass and I saw this chapel full of people my age that were all there because they wanted to be there.” That’s when something clicked. “And I became president of the UCC [University Catholic Community] the very next fall.”

“I think [Gabe] brings really strong organizational skills and also a desire to really get to know the students personally and to help lead them to a deeper life of faith,” said Father Jonathan Wallis, Vicar General of the diocese. Fr. Wallis worked with Gutierrez at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish and will now work with him at the TCU Newman Center — where Fr. Wallis was recently appointed as chaplain.

An altar server process in at the start of Mass for Catholic students of TCU.

An altar server process in at the start of Mass for Catholic students of TCU on Sept. 22, 2019. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

Gutierrez echoed this commitment to helping students deepen their faith: “The bottom line is we want to help students here at TCU grow in their relationship with Jesus and become… stronger disciples. And ultimately we want to help people on their path toward heaven.”

The key to this mission, said Gutierrez, is to help students to feel “safe… valued… and treasured… There’s always going to be those people who… don’t feel valued or don’t feel like they’re heard,” he said. “They’re the marginalized…. We always need to be open to reaching out to them, no matter what they look like or what they struggle with, or any characteristic about them, because they too are made in the image and likeness of God.”

Gutierrez encouraged parishioners to pray for campus ministries “all across the diocese, and… across the country. Their prayers are so valued.”

He also reiterated the importance of campus ministry in his own life and in the lives of many priests, religious, and married adults. “Campus ministry exists, and it’s real, and it’s important, and it changes lives.”

Mission, Gabe Gutierrez, TCU, Campus Minister, Texas Christian, University, Newman Center, trending-english