New campus minister outlines his goals

Dave wants to know how you’re doing


Nicholas Rodecap

Director of campus ministry Mr. Dave Neeson works in his office in the Shiel Student Life Center.

Nicholas Rodecap, Co-Editor-in-Chief

“I never wanted to be a campus minister,” said director of campus ministry Mr. Dave Neeson. 

A promoter at popular night clubs, he would travel across the country bartending at extravagant celebrity gatherings, flipping bottles at high-profile galas.

“We all have a part of us that is searching for something,” Neeson said. “We try filling it with popularity, money, things, and we find out that the hole just gets deeper. I followed money, fame, fortune and I was full of isolation. I didn’t understand it. I never wanted to work for the Church, and then I started working for the Church.” 

A priest approached Neeson and asked him to fill in during a hiring search, and it was during this unexpected time that he found that what he loved was impacting students at a pivotal time in their lives when they were in search of guidance that they were not receiving. Neeson said, “I found that to be really appealing, but it wasn’t intentional.” 

“Twelve years ago, if you would have told me, ‘by the way, this prestigious Catholic institution wants you to direct their campus ministry,’ I would have been like ‘yeah, no.’” 

A friend of his predecessor of 20 years, Mrs. Charlene Witka, Neeson was first introduced to Cathedral when he served as a youth minister for Saint Louis de Montfort. He had just recently moved to the Indianapolis area and was exploring numerous local schools, but the Hill in particular piqued his interest. “What interested me (about Cathedral) is the fact that you can speak to so many people who come from different backgrounds and hear amazing stories,” Neeson said. “That to me was very appealing. It’s hard to turn down the opportunity to grow personally through encountering others.” 

While his position has undoubtedly had many unexpected twists and turns, Neeson said what has surprised him the most is how much people give to the campus. “Look at all the educators and students and how much they put into this. (Cathedral) becomes this heartbeat, and it’s really crazy to watch. That’s probably the most shocking thing — how incredibly dedicated everyone is.”

Neeson said his new role has kept him very busy. “I have never come into my office and been bored.” 

Whether it is addressing seniors during the activity period or speaking to their parents to help the counseling department, his role is one of support. 

“Outside of supporting students and staff, it’s helping guide what ministry can be,” Neeson said. 

I want people to know that campus ministry is more than just giving them faith; it’s giving them support.”

— Mr. Dave Neeson

“I want (campus ministry) to be inviting, all inclusive (and) influential. I want people to know that campus ministry is more than just giving them faith; it’s giving them support.” 

Neeson said that ministry is not something that he can do by himself; rather, it is seeing a wound and letting Christ enter in. He said, “Christ changes wounds, not me.”

Neeson said he thinks his office will not be big enough for what campus ministry grows to be. “We’re working on a retreat model where the freshman retreat builds to the sophomore, junior and senior retreats. We’re going to offer retreats to be intentional.” 

Neeson said it is important for students to know that they are supported. “When I ask a student how they’re doing, I don’t ask them because it’s in passing and I don’t care. I ask them because I genuinely want to know how they’re doing. So frequently we’re trained to respond with ‘fine’ or ‘good’ when (we’re) really not doing well and (we) need support. 

“We have amazing adults here (who can offer that support) and I just want to be a small piece of that puzzle. If I have the opportunity to impact a chapter in the novel that is a person’s life, I feel honored to do it.” 

“It’s so cool to have 1,100 kids outside your office door every day,” Neeson said. “I’m excited to see what I can do. I’d be naive to act like I have all the answers. I need guidance from people who are here.” 

Neeson would go to football games and pray with players Camden Jordan ‘21 and senior Jeff Utzinger. “We were doing that because we were SLDM guys,” Neeson said. “Then I moved here and now I guess I’m praying with these guys in an official capacity, but that was never the goal. The goal was just to be with these guys and support them. They asked to pray, and I did — I didn’t ask them to.

“I just want people to know that I’m here for them. I don’t ask people to call me Mr. Neeson. I ask them to just call me Dave.”