BY TERRY DICKSON
(Diocese of Biloxi) — Marianne Schmidt hails from the Lone Star State but she has always been a Mississippi girl at heart.
Now she will have the opportunity to pour her heart and soul into serving the youth and young adults in the Diocese of Biloxi.
Bishop Louis F. Kihneman III has appointed Schmidt to serve as the new Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.
Schmidt replaces Ray Lacy, who transitioned into the role of Director of Evangelization.
A Houston native, Schmidt is no stranger to the Diocese of Biloxi, having previously served as youth minister at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Picayune and as Director of Campus Ministry at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Hattiesburg, which ministers to the Catholic population at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Growing up, Schmidt was active in the Life Teen program and attended Life Teen Camps in middle school through high school. She also served as a missionary with Life Teen for three summers and went on their Haiti Mission Trip. She attended Ole Miss for her undergraduate degree in Business Administration. After college, she went back to Texas, but Mississippi and ministry was calling her back. She was the youth minister at St. Charles Borromeo in Picayune and then the Campus Minister at Southern Miss while attending Grad school with USM. She graduated with her Masters in Human Capital Development from Southern Miss in December of 2022. She stepped away from ministry, but the Lord called her back into ministry, specifically to youth and young adults.
Schmidt said she is an adherent to the Rule of St. Benedict and the concept of “radical hospitality.”
“Living hospitable looks like so many things,” she said. “It’s like opening the doors to bring everyone in from the cradle Catholics to the friend of a friend that showed up because they wanted something to do. Being radically hospitable isn’t about having the most lavish set-up or the best food. It just asks us to open the doors and open our hearts to receive people where they are at and love them as Christ asks us to love. There are also incredible saints in the church with different backgrounds culturally and spiritually which is why I always like to invite the saints in and read their stories.”
Schmidt said she wants to create an environment where youth and young adults can encounter Christ.
“I cannot make anyone encounter Christ or grow spiritually but what I can do and what I strive to do is always create a space for them to encounter Christ,” she said “Creating a space means both physically (what is the environment) and spiritually (how am I leading and growing as an example). I always remind myself that I am a vessel, and it is not because of me but because of Christ. When organizing anything my approach is prayer and leading with a servant’s heart. When I doubt it is always good to go back to the basics and lead from there. And of course, having fun! As JPII says ‘Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure.’”
In addition to providing spiritual nourishment, Schmidt realizes that part of Southern hospitality also involves providing physical nourishment.
“One way I like to live hospitable is through food. If cooking/baking is a love language it is mine. There is so much goodness that happens when we come around the table to share a meal with one another so anyway I can incorporate that,” she said. “Plus, if you tell young people there is food they will almost always show up. Another method is the one Bishop Kihneman is cultivating in this Diocese. If we can create intentional disciples that can go and make more disciples then we can continue to build up the Kingdom.”
Schmidt said she will seek greater involvement of parents and other adult mentors. My parents, priests, and youth ministers played a huge role into the person I am today and sometimes I didn’t see the value in their example as a teenager but now I see the impact it has made,” she said. “I would love to bring parents in more and keep encouraging parents to form the faith at home. Teens are listening more than we think and even though we may not see the fruits yet there are seeds being planted and it takes the adults in their lives to help cultivate it all. A big part of collaboration is listening so sometimes it is listening to everyone and then seeing where it all connects.” Schmidt said she is actively working with others to create social events and formation for young adults in the diocese. “We have had some events already and plan to work to create community with young adults throughout the diocese,” she said. “We are working on getting small groups going throughout the diocese for young adults to join and find community.”