Ministering a Bright Future
Father Don Willette certainly understands the slogan: "Be all that you can be." After all, it took him 25 years to become an ordained Catholic priest. A part of the 30 years he spent in the U.S Air Force, two marital engagements, two business engagements, and a lot of travel.
Growing up, he attended three separate elementary schools and three separate secondary schools in multiple "hometowns" from the Dakotas to Northeast Montana. In those childhood days he began learning to connect with people—a skill that would serve him later as a parish priest.
Father Don's journey to the priesthood began with his mother, a big-hearted woman who encouraged her son to consider joining the clergy.
By 2001, he had been sent for work as pastor in campus ministry at the St. John XXIII University Parish at CSU.
In this role, he worked on directly assimilating students, faculty, and administration into the larger community. He often emphasized the "whole person," a favorite theme for development.
In this manner, his work in campus ministry would also support the University's commitment to a strong sense of values and character for its students. Many universities get caught up in an exclusive preoccupation for "information" with little regard for the "formation" of character. Both require the integration of values and relationships, which help students prepare for adult living.
"A lot of universities get caught up in their focus on academics and grades. CSU is a good contrast," Father Don says. "They also focus on the formation of values, character, and relationships that will help students contribute to society."
CSU's commitment to establishing a sense of community for its students resonated with Father Don. Throughout his life, he has seen how important it is for young people to feel a sense of belonging.
"It's evident CSU wants students to have a better sense of identity within the University," he says. "For the students, it's a home away from home."
When given the opportunity to create a legacy at CSU, Father Don was quick to accept. He pledged two properties and their earnings to CSU. This pledge established a trust dedicated to hiring an accredited theologian who can help students further their spiritual and academic lives. This type of gift is a great example of utilizing assets to maximize a gift. It's a win-win scenario.
"It's fulfilling to know that my involvement in the community will continue on," he says.
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