The Father Of Viking Catholics

Father Mark Owusu, director of campus ministry for the diocese of Des Moines, has dedicated his life to helping youth find their place in the world.

Although he currently presides with the Des Moines parish and St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church and Student Center, it is not where he began. Owusu’s first work in ministry was in his home country of Ghana, where he served in the Roman Catholic Church for seven years before transferring to Minneapolis.

Photos by Angela Lose

“In the Catholic church, the local bishop is who decides where you will work,” Owusu said. “Sometimes they may decide to have you move to serve someplace else.”

  He received a call from the bishop of his area in Ghana saying that he was needed for a ministry in Minnesota. This decision had been reached based upon a connection between the bishops that oversee parishes in Ghana and Minneapolis.

After moving to the United States in 2007, he worked to earn his master’s degree while attending seminary and serving the local parish in Minneapolis. Later Owusu received another call to move — this time to Des Moines.

On college campuses, Owusu helps organize Bible studies, Mass and other events about faith and personal development.

At GV, such events fall under the umbrella of Viking Catholics Community Group, a branch of the Grand View Student Ministries team. Both Mass and Bible studies are held regularly in the conference rooms of the Student Center.

Although the setting is very different from the traditional cathedral sanctuary, Owusu believes it helps to create a more intimate atmosphere that aids his mission of helping students make faith their own.

This is why Owusu does not limit himself to working behind the pulpit. On many days he can be found “living life” with the students.

“Sometimes I’m playing with them, sometimes chit-chatting, smiling with them … these are all ways to confirm the love of God with them,” Owusu said.

For Stacie Venner, a senior nursing major and head of Viking Catholics at GV, Owusu has been a great encouragement and help for both her and the Catholic presence on campus.

Venner has learned that at GV there are more students who identify as Catholic than any other Christian denomination. She found it surprising that there was not much available to cultivate the lives of these students.

“Back then Viking Catholics was only really Bible studies and going together to events held at St. Catherine’s or at other campuses,” Venner said. “While we were at one of the events, Father Mark came and offered us his help.”

Owusu connected Venner and other members of Viking Catholics with other Catholic student groups around the Des Moines area and was a large influence toward establishing a Catholic community on GV’s campus.

“Father Mark has just this valuable quality that invites students in and makes them want to interact,” Venner said. “For a lot of students, not having that invitation is what holds them back, so having it really helps to make them feel like they’re a part of a community and have a home.”

With college being such a crucial formative stage, Owusu has made it his mission to be a stronghold in the lives of students by supplying a place of support and guidance.

“The greatest way to guide is through example and being purposeful,” Owusu said. “This is why I work to be a leader, pastor, guide and a coach to both lead them in their faith while journeying with them in their own struggles.”

There have been times that Owusu has not been available to preside over Mass on campus or able to make it to events held by Viking Catholics. Venner said that situations like these have shown her the heart Owusu has for the students.

“Father Mark oversees a lot of different colleges and groups, so there are times where he hasn’t been able to make it,” said Venner. “But when these happen, he always does what he can to help us find who or what we need to make things go smoothly.”

“I’m driven by the love for young people, and I think that makes a difference,” Owusu said. “But even though I’m driven by the calling, God is who has provided the grace to accomplish that.”

“Faith is not something to be feared,” Owusu said. “Faith is awesome.”

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