VOL 124 NO. 31
Fishers of men
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
New chaplain settling in at Oswego State Newman Center
If Mike Huynh had his way, he’d spend a lot more time doing what he loves best: fishing.
But in a sense, he’s doing just that all day, every day as he labors to become a fisher of men.
The new parish chaplain at the Newman Center is a graduate of Oswego State. While a student there he came to love Oswego County due to its proximity to the natural beauty of upstate New York as well as nearby Syracuse.
“My time for fishing is also my prayer time and my quiet time. There’s those metaphors all the time,” he said. “I came here to be closer to the fishing, but it turns out I’m out being a fisher of people. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Huynh took over for Father Ed McNally Aug. 10. With few students around during the summer, Huynh primarily spent the last few weeks preparing for their return in September.
With classes resuming, Huynh works to make sure Catholic college students at Oswego State are aware that the Newman Center is there for them.
“First of all it’s just the PR and letting students know what we’re about because I don’t think students automatically connect with what the Newman Center means, ‘Oh that’s the Catholic outreach center or chapel,’” Huynh said. “That’s a big piece of it. Showing up at all the orientation events and trying to lure them in with whatever it takes.”
Huynh is the first layperson to assume the position of chaplain at Oswego State. Largely because of the priest shortage, lay people have been encouraged to take on leadership roles at Colgate University, Cortland State and Cazenovia College
“ I think it’s awesome. I think it’s great to be part of this movement,” he said. “I think in any transition there’s going to be some challenges and difficulties, but I think there’s also opportunity for tremendous growth. That’s what’s so exciting. It’s full of hope. But that’s what we are: we’re people of hope.”
But people around the Newman Center are still getting used to it. Huynh was employed at Bishop Ludden counseling students, and he says that experience has enabled him to help parishioners come to terms with his presence.
“That’s where some of my counseling skills come into play,” he said. “I definitely used them to quell some of their fears. A lot of time it’s fear of the unknown and for the first time ever [there isn’t a priest here].”
The Newman Center at Oswego State is distinct from similar centers. While many of those who attend Mass and other activities are students, a significant percentage are local people, primarily those from the academic community either at the college or in the school district. Huynh believes that composition offers a lot to parishioners.
Along with preparing for the school year, Huynh has planned several upcoming activities. The Newman Center will offer its annual Welcome Back Picnic Sept. 18 and Huynh hopes to re-introduce a monthly coffee house on the third Thursday of each month. A native of Endicott, Huynh has been associated with the Newman Center since he was an undergraduate. When he finished his undergraduate work he went to St. Francis Farm in Orwell and then to Francis Corps. Huynh returned to St. Francis Farm when he began pursuing his counseling degree. He met his wife Christie at Oswego State and the two never left the area save for the sojourn at St. Francis Farm. Christie Huynh is employed at Oswego State in the Community Services Office, and Huynh hopes they will be able to work together on certain projects.
“That’s kind of a neat fit and we’ll work together,” he said. While many people would prefer to compartmentalize the different elements of their lives, keeping career, family and faith separate, Huynh is excited about the new position as a way to fuse those disparate elements.
“I always knew that this was a part of something I wanted to do, the kind of ministry in which I could meld all the pieces of me whether it’s my parents, my life with the people I live with,” he said. “To meld it all into one where it’s a job makes it beautiful thing.”