With twenty-six years of priesthood and an entire life with a goal of improving others’ lives, Father Kevin McCarthy is the Valpo Life in the Spotlight.
Growing up in highland, Kevin was first introduced to the church environment. His church’s service was held in a middle school cafeteria. Every Saturday morning he would set up chairs, and every Sunday night he would take them down.
“The whole aspect of building church every week was created,” Kevin explained.
Furthering his religious background, nuns at his grade school showed him what it truly meant to love and serve the Lord.
“I went into this job to prove to God he had the wrong person. I had a vision of what I wanted with my life and God had different plans. Each year continued to solidify that journey,” explained Father Kevin.
After managing a Wendy’s for ten years, Kevin was able to start a career that would last a lifetime. He was the assistant priest for three different churches, with Nativity of Our Savior in Portage being the most recent. In January of 1987, Kevin was asked to join the community at St. Teresa of Avila in Valparaiso. Located right across from Valparaiso University, a door was opened.
“It was in college that I took ownership of my own faith, so to be able to come and form a community with the college students was amazing,” expressed Father Kevin.
When he first began his journey, the church hosted about twenty families. Today, there are about 525 members and 200 college students for Sunday mass. Father Kevin’s goal is a little more than to just lead mass, however. Striving for a family mentality, Father Kevin focuses on getting everyone involved throughout the week.
“Many people will go on Sunday, but when they long to come to church and want to give back, that’s when you know you’re doing something right, “ he said.
Being ordained twenty-six years ago, Father Kevin has been figuring out how to keep people involved in the Church for quite awhile.
“Being in a relationship with people is the key part to my job. I do my best to never be too busy for people.”
Father Kevin has played an important role in starting a number of programs at St. Teresa. When the steel mill workers went on strike fourteen years ago, the church knew they needed to do something to help out. Cafe Manna was established. Serving just one person on their first night, the soup kitchen has now blossomed into a much bigger event. On an average Thursday night, the Cafe will now serve around 350 people. Meals can be delivered, taken home, or eaten at the church. Families from the church will rotate in making the meal, dessert, and salad, and college students do all the serving. Each night, fifty to sixty church members are involved in the rewarding process.
Father Kevin said, “I would never in my wildest dreams have imagined it would unfold the way it has.”
In the summer, St. Teresa will host men from the homeless shelter every Wednesday night. Four times a year, the church will also host a food drive. Furthermore, The Helping Hands Community was created to assist church families in times of stress. For example, when a family is having a baby, the church will provide them with meals for two weeks.
“We’re taking what we do on Sundays and putting it in the world daily,” explained Father Kevin.
To keep the college students involved, a Sunday mass held at 9 pm followed by a home-cooked meal draws in the busy young adults. Bible studies are also held on campus. The Adopt-A-Student program was also established, in which a family from the church will “adopt” a college student who may be anxious about moving to a new town.
Father Kevin said, “I have a vision that when they leave here, they’ll have a major education and a relationship with Jesus Christ that will give them everything they need to change the world.”
“My hope is that when these students go off after they graduate, they are not only going to look where are they going to live, but where they are going to go to church and become active in the community,” Father Kevin continued.
Father Kevin’s favorite part of his career is watching people take ownership of their personal relationship with Jesus Christ and watching how that plays out in our lives. Knowing a majority of churchgoers on a first name basis, he is able to have a relatively large church that still feels like a family.
“The neat thing of a catholic church is our rich tradition that we continue to build on. We never want our faith to become stagnant or stale, “ he explained.
With such a long and successful history with the church, Father Kevin McCarthy’s story is truly inspiring, making him a Valpo Life in the Spotlight.