A Catholic priest rides around on campus on a golf cart — this isn’t the set-up for a joke, but a new initiative by the Rev. Patrick Baikauskas.
Baikauskas, from St. Thomas Aquinas, is counting on people turning their heads.
Baikauskas plans to continue making himself available to students in a space that he hopes may be more accessible for them.
“It’s a way to open it up in a more friendly way,” he said. “Sometimes people are really scared and afraid to go to confession. We want to break that down, let people see that the face of Jesus on campus.”
He explained how he hopes this eventually brings more students back to the church as well.
“If you’re accessible, if you’re visible and people see it, they’re going to take advantage of it,” he said.
Baikauskas explained how he came up with the idea for the golf cart confessionals in the first place.
He said he got the idea during a freshman orientation day this summer from a staff member at the church who suggested golf carts in lieu of walking all over campus to greet incoming students.
“It just sprang from that, the most unlikely of conversations,” he said.
Baikauskas also expressed his hopes for the initiative and how St. Thomas Aquinas plans to make this a new normal for students to see while out and about on campus.
“We’re going to be consistent, and we’re going to persevere, and I’m sure that we’re going to get a good response for it. I mean, the response has been so positive (already),” Baikauskas said.
Grace Anne Dimmitt, a sophomore in the College of Health and Human Sciences, found the new initiative interesting.
“I never would have thought he would do something like this, but it does sound like something that he would do,” she said.
Dimmitt found these confessions convenient in some ways, “so they don’t have to go all (the way) across campus to go to church for confession.”
But she did say it was different from the typical private confession, since these confessions are in public.
As of now, Baikauskas said he plans to just drive through campus to find students, but that eventually he plans to come up with a firmer schedule and post his location on the church’s social media to make it easier for students to find him.
“Don’t hear confessions and drive,” Baikauskas said, explaining how when students flag him down he will stop to hear their confession, and then continue to drive around after.
Baikauskas stressed the most important thing was to just make himself and the other priests at St. Thomas visible to the people of the community.
“When you see one of the priests from St. Thomas out on campus — in our (habitat) — that means we are open for business. You need to talk to us about anything? We’re available,” Baikauskas said.
Baikauskas also discussed some of the other outreach programs they do with the community, like giving out hot chocolate to students in the winter.
“People are incredible,” he said. “When you give them something, they give you their time.”