Newman Center welcomes new priest


Maggie Molitor, Reporter

The Pope Pius Xll Newman Center gained a new Catholic priest and director this year as 2004 graduate Father Patrick Grode returns to his alma mater.

Grode’s journey back to campus started when he entered the seminary in 2014, but before his discernment to the priesthood, the South Dakota State University graduate obtained a degree in English and theater and studied law at Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

After practicing law as a licensed attorney for seven years, Grode realized when reflecting on his life that he continued to find himself striving for something more.

“I asked myself, where do I see myself in 10 years?” Grode said. “I had a job I loved, but I wasn’t passionate about it. I knew I wanted to change something.”

After exploring his options, he found his vocation and decided to continue his studies with the diocese of Sioux Falls Seminary.

The already two-time college graduate graduated for a third time as an ordained Catholic priest in 2018. Grode started his second assignment this July as director of the Newman Center and pastor of St. Paul’s parish in White, South Dakota.

Despite the unusual transition to a new assignment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Grode is thankful for the welcoming community of Brookings and is anxious to start building relationships and trust with parishioners.

One goal Grode has for the Newman Center is to help students “break the mold” in order to find their true identity as young Catholic adults.

“There is a way in the world that will bring you life, happiness and eternal salvation,” he said. “We must break the mold of what the negative aspects of the world tell us to be.”

This message has been adopted by the Newman Center outreach.  Grode and other members of the Newman Center work hard to ensure a safe environment for attendees, and the center has been making efforts since 1960 to provide resources and spiritual guidance to students in such a transitional time in their lives.

Celebrating Mass during services is just one part of the job for Grode. His role as director of the center is to perform the holy sacraments, provide spiritual direction to students and faculty, help direct student activities and keep track of funding and business of the center.

Grode attributes his unique background in law when discussing what helped equip him with certain skills needed as a priest.

“I think that law, at its best, teaches its practitioners to take abstract rules and apply them to concrete situations in a way that is practical but still respects and follows the rule,” Grode said. “And that’s certainly something a priest has to do, too.”

Grode continues his involvement in law by working with a group of young lawyers in the Sioux Falls area to form a coalesce of Catholic attorneys.

While being grateful for his real-world experience as an attorney, Grode is excited to return to his alma mater after 16 years in a job he is proud and passionate about.

“The Newman center was a big part of my life when I was in college,” Grode said. “It’s surreal to be back in another role.”