University of Detroit Mercy alumnus Paul Manuszak (photo courtesy of UDM)

University of Detroit Mercy (UDM) alumnus Paul Manuszak ’22 has long been connected to the Jesuits. His father, Joe, works for the Colombiere Retreat and Conference Center, which offers healthcare for retired Jesuits in Clarkston, MI. It’s part of the reason Manuszak chose to attend UDM. And last summer, it inspired him to leave his engineering job in the defense industry for missionary work in Belize.

“I believe that was one of the reasons why I chose UDM,” Manuszak said on his link to the Jesuits. “I was raised around the order [and] I’d say it was important in my decision-making. When I was at UDM, I enjoyed the Jesuit presence that I felt on campus.”

The Mechanical Engineering graduate also starred in lacrosse at the University, where he earned numerous honors during his career, including twice being named First Team All-Conference, along with being just the third Titan ever to play in United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Senior All-Star Game.

Manuszak left the United States on August 1 to spend a year working with the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity in Benque Viejo Del Carmen, Belize. Part of his work includes teaching at the John Paul II Junior College, located in the town of 6,200 residents, just across the border from Guatemala.

“The idea of teaching at a college really interests me,” he said. “One of the things that I’m discerning is perhaps going back into academia. Just connecting with young adults, meeting new people and connecting with the younger generation excites me.

“I absolutely loved college, going to classes and meeting new people. I’m excited to give back to that environment: the environment of learning.”

Like most Jesuit colleges and universities, the University of Detroit Mercy offers a wide variety of programs and events designed to help students explore and understand their faith.

Located in the freshly renovated Student Union, University Ministry hopes its programming — retreats, social justice immersion trips, service in the community, and even a new podcast — makes exploring faith easily accessible to all students, staff and faculty.

Established in 1990 through the consolidation of the University of Detroit and Mercy College of Detroit, UDM is the only university in the United States that combines the Jesuit charism with that of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. The two orders have very similar concerns and blend well. There are more Jesuits on campus than Sisters of Mercy, but both have strong representation at UDM.

Anita Klueg, Director of University Ministry, says that their many offerings are meant to reach students no matter where they are on their spiritual journey.

“For many of our students, this is the first time they have been away from family and are making their own decisions about spirituality, religion, values and beliefs,” she said. “What we offer is a framework to encourage them to find a relationship with God. How that manifests — whether through service or immersion experiences in Detroit or various parts of the U.S. and borders, or in advocacy work or understanding social justice, or simply by attending a Mass or Jummah prayer service in a more thoughtful way — is up to them.”

The goal is for students to experience the Detroit Mercy community through a sense of belonging and connection with and for others by building authentic relationships. “We hope they learn to honor the intrinsic value of the individual and recognize God’s presence in each person,” Klueg said.

University Ministry offers student retreats off campus with different themes: “Becoming Balanced” is happening this spring, as is one at which students are encouraged to bring school work and take healthy breaks for community and a shared meal. “A Busy Person’s Retreat” offers a four-week, on-campus retreat designed to be tucked in among all of the other things that students, faculty and staff are doing.

What’s the Tea with Ministry” is a fun new podcast hosted by two members of the University Ministry team. Its episodes include mission-centered conversations, reflections and interviews with students, staff, faculty and other community members.

And in addition to Masses every afternoon and Sunday evening, University Ministry offers Midweek Mindfulness in a quiet little chapel created during the Student Union renovation. It’s a space to be still and look for God.

Manuszak will follow in the footsteps of his brothers who were both in the Peace Corps for two years. Having watched his two brothers do it, Manuszak had mission work on his radar, but wanted to do something more faith-based.

He initially heard about how the Jesuits did mission work during his senior year at Warren De La Salle High School, and Detroit Mercy continued to help push him in that direction after he arrived in 2017.
“During my sophomore year, I started to learn about the Jesuit Volunteer Corps,” he said. “I went to a few meetings and learned more. UDM introduced me to the faith-based option.”

He continued, “I wanted to do something international and found out about the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. I know if I had done my education at another university, it would have been such a different experience.”

To learn more about UDM’s University Ministry offerings, please click here.

By Adam Bouton with Ron Bernas, University of Detroit Mercy