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Hello friends of St. Peter’s,
traviswebsite1It is bittersweet to announce that I am stepping down as Director of Development for St. Peter’s to pursue a new opportunity with FOCUS National beginning October 15th.
Thanks to this ministry, I have found and embraced my Catholic faith, made wonderful friends, and began an exciting career in Catholic fund development. I am so appreciative of Father Daniel’s support and encouragement as well as the encouragement of those in the immediate Baylor Catholic community.
We are currently undergoing the process of finding my replacement. Know that this ministry is in very good hands and you can expect to see more and more young people on fire for Christ as a result of their time here.
I apologize if I was not able to share this news in person and I hope to see or talk to as many of you as possible before I leave.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
P.S. I’ve included a link to the job description below.
While we are sad to see him go, we are overjoyed for the new adventure Travis is setting out on! Please keep him in your prayers and tell him congratulations when you see him! 


In the professional life it’s pretty common for someone to experience an “afternoon slump”. In the morning many people show up to their places of work ready to rock and roll. They grab a cup of coffee, sit down at their desk, and get down to business. It’s nothing but productive and effective work and BAM before you know it, it’s time to eat lunch. Unfortunately, it’s what happens after lunch that’s the problem. During the “afternoon slump”, morale drops, productivity is halted, and quite frankly nobody feels like being at the office anymore.

This type of day happens to me at the office all the time. I get in, have a cup of coffee, and I can’t wait to do whatever it takes to perform my duties well. One day the afternoon came and I had my slump. That day though, I decided that this work was too important to have an afternoon slump. So I said a prayer and grabbed a second cup of coffee. Now that second cup of coffee represents more than just a beverage I enjoy drinking or an afternoon pick me up, it represents a resolution that’s renewed everyday. The second cup is a resolution to not give up just because the day is starting to seem long, an assertion that your work is important enough to see it through to its completion.

The spiritual life works just like that. We get our prayer lives going and before you know it, it’s daily Mass, Rosaries, and boy oh boy we can’t get enough Adoration. But then for one reason or another we take a lunch break. It is important in your professional life to take breaks, but a person should never take a break from their spiritual life. However, the reality is your spiritual life is not always as fervent as it should be. Sometimes, you will take an unexpected lunch break and when that happens you will be tempted to become discouraged. These are the times where it is most important not to quit.

So during those times where maybe you haven’t been very motivated in your prayer life, fight with all your might not to become discouraged. Grab that second cup of coffee and get back to it!

“Discouragement is an enemy of your perseverance. If you don’t fight against discouragement you will become pessimistic first, and lukewarm afterwards. Be an optimist.” – (St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way, 988).

Travis, everyone’s favorite director of development, is here with some epic tips on how to improve your workouts and your prayer!

{photo from Jared Zimmerer}

This one is for the Catholic meat heads of the world. If done right there should be few places holier than the weight room, where weights clanking together sound as sweet as church bells, chalk fills the room like incense in Mass, and men and women approach the iron like it’s the answer to their prayers. Well… it’s not the answer to your prayers but it can help aid your prayer and help you to grow in virtue. Below are a few tips to help you add virtue to you gym sessions:

1) “Pray before, after, and during your lifts” – Jared Zimmerer
A workout is the perfect place to figure out the intricacies of your soul. It is interesting that in order to grow our muscles we have to tear them down first. It is the same with our souls, if you invite Christ and His Blessed Mother to the gym with you they will reveal to you things you never knew about yourself. Trust me on this.
“Let us work. Let us work a lot and work well, without forgetting that prayer is our best weapon. That is why I will never tire of repeating that we have to be contemplative souls in the middle of the world, who try to convert their work into prayer” – St. Josemaria Escriva.

2) Train until failure.

Your time in the gym is a time to remember your mortality. Not only will you build more muscle, but in choosing to do those extra reps that are so difficult and painful, you will be able to make difficult choices outside of the gym. When the temptation to be lazy at work arises, or to give in to that moment of weakness in front of your laptop, you will know what it’s like to push yourself to your limits and you will be able to overcome. It is also important lesson in perseverance, if a person is stuck benching 225 lbs. for 8 reps, does he stop trying to get the 9th rep. No, that person continues to work and fail at 8 reps until he can do 9. In a similar way, when we fall into sin, especially into mortal sin, you get to confession and get back to work! When you fall again, you do the same thing. Discouragement IS the devil so when you fail the only thing you should be thinking about is your next set. Get back on the bench and try again!
“We expect that God, in his omnipotence, will defeat injustice, evil, sin and suffering with a triumphant divine victory. Instead, God shows us a humble victory that in human terms seems to be a failure.”- Pope Francis

3) Absolutely never say no to spotting a fellow lifter- especially if they are new to the gym!

Especially when someone is new to the gym, they could be extra vulnerable. Nothing drives me crazier than when someone is too into themselves to take five seconds out of their workout to help spot and motivate someone else in the gym. When someone is new to the gym, one bad experience can sour them forever. This reminds me of another place where people get soured because they were not welcomed in the proper way…oh yeah CHURCH. The bottom line is, when someone needs help and you’re in a position to offer help (in this case you always are), you offer help. Period. “Iron is sharpened by Iron; one person sharpens another”- Psalm 27:17.
As Catholics, our bodies are temples of the most wonderful gift on earth, the Eucharist. So when we are pursuing our fitness goals, we should keep this in mind and make sure the process is virtuous. We wouldn’t want to build a parish for our own glory we would want it to represent the beauty inside. So the same goes for your body, when you are sculpting and building your temple make sure it is for the right reasons! Also, for the love of God enjoy your workouts!

by Travis Schilling, Director of Development for St. Peter’s Catholic Student Center. 


Many people who know me understand that I am, in a very odd way, outspoken about how one should drink their coffee. One quiet morning here at the center I sat down to drink my coffee and upon taking that first sip (the best part of any holy man’s day), I got to thinking about how delicious coffee is without any of what I often refer to as “nonsense”(cream, sugar, etc.).  After wasting a ridiculous amount of time on this thought I had a revelation… Jesus is a lot like coffee! This is true in a couple of different ways:

The first way is that often times people drink coffee not so much because they enjoy the taste but because they simply want a pick me up. For this reason, they will load their coffee up with all sorts of the aforementioned “nonsense” because they cannot actually stand the taste of the drink itself. This is like many in our society today that want everything Jesus has to offer them but do not want to live out their Universal Christian Vocation: Holiness! Grace is a free gift if we would only choose to accept it. In the book of Peter the Lord says, “he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion”.  Jesus is who Jesus is and has said what he has said. We must make a conscience effort every day to live out our Baptism and the Lord will surely bring Joy to our lives!

The second way people “disguise the taste” of Jesus is that they underestimate his mercy. While we are all called to holiness, the fact is that we are still HUMAN. We will surely make mistakes, we will surely fall short from time to time, and yes we will surely sin. However, there is no need to try to hide our shortcomings from Jesus; he has literally died so that we may come to him as we are. These instances of sin, insecurity, or any sort of failure are not a time in which we should be disguising our coffee; it is precisely in these times where we need to allow Jesus to pour us a nice hot cup of Grace just as it is and just as we need it. It is in these times where we ought to “confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”– Hebrews 4:16

Now please do not miss my point, this is not a lesson on how you should drink your coffee. It is fine to enjoy a cup of coffee with a little cream and sugar but as for your daily cup of Jesus… Drink it Black!

By Debbie Shannon, Director of Development, St. Peter’s

Blogger’s Note: It was my intention to write my final official post for the Baylor Catholic Blog on the subject of “community”, being as I am about to depart from this community and ministry that is very dear to my heart. Unfortunately, numerous projects and deadlines delayed my writing, and so my regularly scheduled ‘Third Wednesday’ posting date got delayed until today. As it was, Wednesday, April 17, was the night of the explosion in West, Texas. My topic is still on community, but has become so much more poignant in light of the suffering by our “next door neighbors” in West. I would like to dedicate my post to the Czech community of West.

“And they were of one heart and soul; …(and) they shared everything in common.”

Of all the qualities that are the essence of our Triune God that I am most grateful for, besides Love and Mercy, is that of Relationship. Our God is a God of relationship. In a constant exchange of love, between each Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Creator overflows His infinite love and mercy on His creation. We are, in fact, created in response to the only ‘need’, or maybe more accurately, ‘desire’ that God has…the desire to love. (I hope that isn’t a theologically unsound statement…but you get what I mean.)

And, then, made in His image and likeness, we are ‘wired’ for relationship as well. It is in relationship we most profoundly reflect God to others.  It is in relationship that we most likely find Him in the first place.  Even the hermits of the early days of the Church discovered that permanent and total isolation was not the best, or easiest, way to pursue deeper unity with God, and so the ‘monastic community’ was born.  Even cloistered religious are profoundly focused on finding God in their little community set apart.

We need community.  We find God in community.  We find God in each other there, and we find God in ourselves there.

I have been profoundly blessed with the most life-giving relationships over the years. I was born into a loving and nurturing family who took me to God in Baptism and formed me in the catechism of the Catholic Church.  I was the oldest of 12 siblings and grew up learning how to share, to forgive, to love in that domestic church that is called family.

I experienced my first community outside the protective walls of my home and family in Catholic schools, where I was further formed in the challenges of give and take, good and bad choices and looking past irritations and hurts to still ‘be friends’ despite the effort it can require.  I moved on to college life, and a far more vast community of potential relationships, where I learned to choose wisely those in whom I would invest time – sometimes because they were a good influence on me, and sometimes because I might be a good influence on them.  Ultimately, it was through those college relationships that I had my first profound “awakening” of faith.

Later, God granted me a new family, with and through my husband. We have six wonderful children and now two grandchildren! In this intimate community, I learned patience and tolerance and the wonder and awe of being a co-creator with God in bringing forth new life. I learned the challenges of parenting which required that I reach out in earnest for God’s gifts of wisdom and counsel and understanding.  I still do. In the covenant relationship of marriage and my husband’s faithfulness, I see God.  In each of my children’s faces, I see the goodness of God.

Over the years, our family traveled and lived in numerous cities from the east to west coasts and in between.  Most of the closest friends I would develop in each new town came from my parish community as I would jump in and get involved in various ministries.  These communities held so many wonderful friends that brought me many blessings and reflected the face of Jesus to me and His amazing way of appearing in an infinite variety of faces, personalities and walks of life.  How blessed is the man (woman) who has friends! As much as I would mourn the loss of contact with these friends over the years, when life would require us to move again, God always had new ‘best friends’ waiting for me around the bend.

And then, in His infinite love and generosity, God granted me a new and very special community when we moved to the city of Waco, Texas just three years ago.  He planted me in the midst of a ‘houseful’ of Catholic college students at St. Peter Catholic Student Center at Baylor University! The face of Jesus Christ practically blinds you amidst the wonderful, faith-filled students I have had the privilege of developing relationships with over those three years as a staff member of St. Peter’s.  Some have reflected Him through their profound faith and inspiring devotion to worship. Others reflect His joy in their gusto for life and fun and silliness.  Many reflect His Divine Providence in the way I see Him provide comfort and guidance through our ministries to those who are struggling with the stress of studies, relationships or life decisions.  And even the faces of the students I don’t know reflect Him through their youthfulness, where I see the hope and promise of goodness and potential that I know is in each of their lives, and that I know God is just waiting to offer them.  I see God at St. Peter’s Catholic Student Center and He is so beautiful!


Community is one of the greatest gifts God gives to us! We give and we receive from Him there.  We are challenged and we are comforted.  We learn and we teach.  We love and we are loved.

This week, we were challenged by the horrific tragedy of a deadly explosion in the community of West, Texas.  Here in Central Texas, we are witnessing a community challenged, but comforted by each other, as well as other communities reaching out to them.  We see their love for each other in grief, but also being loved by the surrounding communities, who may not know them personally, but are bound with them by the larger community that is the Body of Christ.  Our own student community of St. Peter’s has responded with genuine compassion and desire to help by giving blood, offering prayer vigils, and lending a hand with supplies and other means.

For If They Fall, the One Will Lift Up His Fellow

God’s great ‘desire’ to love stands parallel to His great ‘desire’ to see us love one another, for in this, we love Him as well.  Let us all thank God for our communities.

I thank God for mine, and especially, as I move on to a new community soon, I thank God for St. Peter’s and the Catholic students it serves.  I have been blessed by you and will carry you in my hearts always.

By Debbie Shannon

I don’t know about you, but in the days following the announcement and ensuing discovery of the man who is our new Pope Francis, I find myself grasping for every word that comes from his mouth.  Indeed, the entire world seems enamored by this man whom most of us knew nothing about, yet now, can’t get enough of.

Baylor Catholic student and theology major, Emily Edmondson is equally intrigued, and immediately went searching online for any and all homilies of then, Cardinal Bergoglio which might be on the web.  True to Emily’s over the top enthusiasm for all things theological, she began to translate them from Spanish into English. She is happy to share them with our blog followers through the blog she has established for posting them.

Check out Papal Translation Project for English translations of a number of homilies from his days as Bishop (and Cardinal) Bergoglio.

Pope Francis - wave

By Debbie Shannon, Director of Ministries & Development at St. Peter’s

Road to LentLent used to be one of my very favorite times of year. I know…weird. But, honestly, I loved the structure and inherent “rules and regulations” that came with Lent when I was young. Having an OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) personality, I found the guidelines comforting. I need rules. I need structure, and order, and clear boundaries. Following them made me feel secure that I was doing okay.

Growing up in my family, Lenten sacrifices and traditions were a family affair. Ash Wednesday WAS a holy day of obligation (although technically it is not, I don’t think my dad cared…it was definitely an obligation for us). We ALL fasted and abstained from meat, regardless of our age. There were no sweets in our house during Lent, as it was assumed you were to give that up…and then, you were strongly encouraged to decide what else you were going to ‘give up’ for God as well. I know that sounds kind of stern and controlling, but, well, I got my OCD from my daddy.

To his credit, I also got my faith instruction from my father as well, and I did understand that I was supposed to do these things out of love for God. While I may not have had a mature understanding of how it helped, I did have a sense I was supposed to show Jesus that I knew He had sacrificed greatly for me, so I owed it to Him to make sacrifices to show Him I loved Him back. Well…not a bad understanding for a kid…but it was certainly full of pitfalls.

I figured the more I sacrificed, the more loving I was. If I didn’t yet ‘feel the love’, I could at least ‘show it’ and maybe it would come. I wanted to love God and I wanted Him to know it. Problem is I spent years equating my success, or lack of success, in my Lenten practices to my success, or lack of success, in loving God.  Being OCD, the effort and intent was not what counted, results did.

Oh, the pains of being a perfectionist! It took me decades to realize the significance of the Ash Wednesday readings and “…rend your hearts, not your garments.”

Lenten sacrifices were never meant to be about what we do for God. We really can’t do anything for God. He doesn’t need anything. They are ways to ‘empty ourselves’ so that we can be filled with what He wants to give us – His Love.

I wasted so much time mourning over my miserable failures when I secretly ate a piece of candy, or took a teeny, tiny little sip of soft drink, or peeked at just a minute of a favorite TV show I had given up from behind a corner where no one could see me. I just was never good enough, or strong enough, or devoted enough, or loving…well, there in lies the point! We are weak, and sinful, and lacking. EXACTLY!!! And so we need God desperately to be our strength, our healing and our remedy.  It is in our failures that we recognize more clearly our great need for God.  THAT is the genius of Lenten practices!

Today, I still secretly resolve to abstain from some things at Lent, however, I try to avoid the OCD concentration on perfect success. I rejoice that God still loves me when I fail, and thank Him for reminding me that I am NOT perfect, but that HE is!  I ask Him to fill my lack with his perfect love.

I have turned more to Lenten practices that allow Him to do for me, rather than trying to prove anything to Him. (God doesn’t need proof of our love…He knows everything!) I avail myself to more spiritual reading and scripture, so I can fill myself with His word and inspirations. I go to confession so He can fill me with His forgiveness and grace to resist sin in the future. I attend Mass more frequently – so He can fill me with Himself!  I find this a much more satisfying Lent – I’d rather empty my soul for Him to fill, than my stomach.  Those practices are still good for ‘practice’.  I exercise my “No” muscle in little things, so that if a big temptation (for sin) comes along, I’ve practiced, and can say no to myself more easily.

I just wish I could be less “OCD” about the dirty socks my teens leave on the living room floor. Guess I might give up nagging about socks for Lent, too.

By Debbie Shannon, Director of Ministries and Development, St. Peter’s Catholic Student Center

I recently heard a clever fable about a farmer whose mule fell into a well. Since he had no way to get him out, and figuring he was a goner anyway, the farmer decided to just bury him there. He got a truckload of dirt and dumped it on top of the mule. But instead of lying down under it, the mule started kicking and snorting until he worked his way on to the top of it.

The farmer soon returned with another load and dropped it in as well.  Again, the donkey snorted, kicked and climbed aboard his bigger pile of dirt.  This continued all afternoon. Truckload after truckload, the mule just kept shaking it off and stepping on top of it. Finally, when the dirt reached the top of the well, the mule just snorted and walked away, a dirtier but wiser mule.

What was intended to bury him, just brought him out on top.

I recall with great fondness the conversation my husband had with one of our daughters one semester when she was thinking of dropping out of college. Her grades were in the cellar and she was sure she was going to fail two of her major courses. He told her the story of his own semester of failure that, at midterm, looked hopeless. He decided to go back and reread each of his textbooks from the beginning to get a better handle on what was eluding him. He went from failing at midterm, to the only semester he made the ‘Dean’s List”. Our daughter was inspired, but still a bit hesitant it would matter. Nonetheless, she returned to school with a stubborn determination and finished the semester (the only one) on her university’s “President’s List”. She did not drop out, but changed majors and excelled from that point on.

On his way to Rome, St. Paul was shipwrecked on an island. As he was gathering firewood a snake attached itself to his arm. What did he do? The Bible says he “shook it off.”

When proclaiming the Good News and encountering rejection, Jesus gave his disciples this advice:

“As you enter a house, wish it peace.  If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you.  Whoever will not receive you, or listen to your words – go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.” (Matthew 10:12-14)

There’s an important lesson for us in all of these stories. You can either dwell on the past, or shake it off and move toward the future God has planned for you. St. Paul, was a man with a past, but he wrote,

“…forgetting what lies behind, but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13b-14)

That doesn’t mean that St. Paul ever forgot his past, he just shook it off and kept going. You say, “But I’ve failed so badly.” The Bible says, “Your sins I remember no more.” (Isaiah 43:25b) Sometimes forgiveness requires a healing process, but until you make the decision to forgive yourself and others, and “shake it off,” the process can’t even begin.

Climb up on that pile of dirt, and walk away – toward a future of hope!

By Debbie Shannon, Director of Ministries & Development

My mom had a large cowbell that she used to ring from the front door step to call the horde that was my family in to dinner every night.  We didn’t like to stop playing to come home, but since I have always loved to eat, the sound represented something to me that both comforted and communicated.  I still smile at the sound of a cowbell.

Bells ring to communicate lots of things.  Besides a dinner bell, there is the door bell to tell you someone has arrived, the tower bell to ring the tones of the hours, the monastery bell that signals vespers, or the church bells that tone for Mass.  Today, cellphone tones are effective in alerting us to calls, texts, or emails, but most become an annoyance rather than a welcome reminder. Certainly our world is full of tones to signal us to something whether we really want to know or not.

There are times in life that we definitely wish we could ‘hear the call’.  For the Christian, as we mature, we wish we knew what we are supposed to do, where we are supposed to go, when we are supposed to move, but no bell rings.  Some people languish for years uncertain of what they are ‘called’ to do in life. How do we hear the call when it comes?

This year, St. Peter’s ministry – The Rock – will focus on the subject of “Callings”.  Pizza, praise and worship precede a guest speaker who will share their faith journey in light of different callings.  Robert Tunmire will give an encore presentation of his powerful personal testimony with Called to Conversion at our first meeting of The Rock on Wednesday, September 19 at 7pm.  (Pizza is served at 6:30)

October’s guests will be Jonathan and Deborah Ford who will share their journeys as former Baptist minister and children of protestant ministers into the Catholic Church with Called to Catholicism.  November will spotlight our very own Fr. Daniel Liu with the story of his call to the priesthood with Called to Holiness.  In December, Deacon Buddy Shields will share how he heard the Call to Service and entered the deaconate.

The Rock will continue in the spring semester with guest speakers on answering the Call to Married Life and living the life of faith when called to work in the business world, the medical field, and the media.

This year’s Rock program should be one of the best yet.  Our speakers are excellent, the pizza will be hot and we have a singing, guitar-playing priest leading praise and worship. Be listening for the bell and get to the front pew when it ‘calls’.

By Debbie Shannon, Director of Ministries & Development – Debbie served as Secretary/Center Coordinator at St. Peter’s since October, 2010. She recently accepted the new position of Director of Ministries and Development. 

Every year, St. Peter’s celebrates the beginning of a new academic year at Baylor University with their annual Block Party.  It is lots of fun, usually oppressively hot, but always filled with of a sense of anticipation.  It is a fresh start on a new year.  This year was especially full of promise and, unique to last year’s Block Party, the weather was actually very pleasant for August in Waco and everyone delighted in it.

Ministries were spread before the new freshmen who come to “check things out” at tables manned by student leaders ready to sign them up for involvement in their new church home. The Dr. Pepper trailer was open with student leaders handing out ice cold drinks to beat the heat, and Deacon Frank and Ms. Janet serve up sno-cones. Music was playing by the big barbecue pit where the Knights of Columbus proudly served up hamburgers, hot dogs and ‘manly’ conversation. Catholic faculty and staff wandered through the crowd introducing themselves to their students, occasionally recognizing a few faces from a seat in their classroom the day before. It was such a great way for our Catholic community to connect as we embrace the promise of what is to come this year.

St. Peter’s is growing. The turnout was exciting and the ministries tables stayed busy answering questions.  The pre-registration for our New Student Retreat hit a record number for only 3 days into the school year.  The Catholic freshmen appear ready to dive in and get involved in their new church home. No one was twisting arms, only spreading them in welcome as volunteers came looking for how to sign up. I visited with enough new students to get a clear sense that they arrived at Baylor already well aware of the reputation of St. Peter’s campus ministry and excited to become a part of it.

A special treat this year was the presence of four new FOCUS missionaries (see preceding blog post by Kelsie Schoch). They were busy engaging both new and returning students in conversation and explaining what their role at St. Peter’s is all about.

And unique to this year’s festivities was the presence of TWO of St. Peter’s priests, outgoing Fr. Anthony Odiong, who is departing the United States to pursue his education at the Pontifical College in Rome next month and Fr. Daniel Liu, our new director, who arrived July 1.  Fr. Daniel has quickly picked up where Fr. Anthony left off and is ready to surge ahead with our growing Catholic campus ministry at the world’s largest traditionally Baptist university. There were plenty of hugs being shared with Fr. Anthony who arrived with his traditional party hat, while Fr. Daniel was kept busy getting to know his students new and old.

As the resident “house mom”, my mother’s intuition told me both of them were feeling the same pride and gratitude that I was feeling.  This year’s Block Party was an event that left me full of such hope and confidence in what God is accomplishing in our ministry today and for the future of the Church in these young people who will be her leaders in a not so distant tomorrow.  Yes, it is definitely going to be a GREAT year – and Block Party once again kicked it off in great style!

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August 2017
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We had a great day helping the Class of 2021 #move2BU! Looking forward to meeting more of you tomorrow! St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us. Our new FOCUS team for the upcoming year. Keep all our Bears serving with @focuscatholic in your prayers while they continue their training.
pc: @briannacasias Happy Father's Day to our dear spiritual father, Fr. Daniel! We are so blessed!