Dave and Dawn Kinsman serve the UW-Milwaukee campus community with love and Christian service. Through their seven years working at the UWM Newman Center, they have touched the lives of countless students and inspired them to Christ-centered lives.
The Newman Center is the hub off Catholic campus ministry, dedicated to serving the campus in a faith-filled manner.
Dave is coordinator of ministries, and his wife Dawn, a nationally known Christian singer, is the Newman Center administrative assistant. Since their arrival on campus in 2009, the Kinsmans have focused on getting students involved in their faith.
The couple grew up in Watertown, South Dakota, where they met at Holy Name Parish, and has worked in Catholic ministries for about 30 years in South Dakota, Southern Minnesota and Milwaukee.
In their time at the Newman Center, the Kinsmans have seen the community and its participation in center activities grow.
“Dave does a lot to seek out creating relationships with students that come to the Newman,” said Amy Bastian, a UWM student. “Dawn does a lot of behind-the-scenes work so that the Newman can function.”
When the Kinsmans arrived, the Newman Center had one or two small groups, known as life groups, which focus on “building friendships centered around God and growing a personal relationship with God,” according to UWM student Joseph Cardinale.
Today there are approximately 12 life groups led by UWM students, and the center’s free, weekly dinners are often attended by more than 100 students.
Sarah Murphy, a UWM student, attributes that growth to the Kinsmans and their investment in student leadership.
“When I started my freshman year of college, I did not expect my faith to grow as it did,” Murphy said. “Dave and Dawn have a way of sharing their faith that makes you want to grow in your relationship with Christ.”
“We like to invest in the lives of students … We give away leadership. We can’t do it without them,” Dave said.
Last summer, 18 students from the Newman Center participated in the Evangelization Training Camp in Indiana where they were trained in Catholic leadership. Every fall, the Kinsmans lead a retreat for students.
“These retreats help students grow in leadership, community and personal faith,” said Cardinale.
“I know God sent me to UWM to meet Dave and Dawn,” UWM student Katie Culver said. “Dave is, by far, one of the most influential persons in my life, and I don’t know where I’d be without him.”
Students from other universities, including Marquette, have come to the Newman Center and been impressed by what they’ve experienced.
“We want students to have a life in liturgy and a life in community,” Dave said.
The couple work not to, as he said, fill the pews, but actually engage students in faith and fellowship. Whether through the praise and worship music at Mass, as greeters who welcome students and visitors to church or the hospitality following Mass, the Kinsmans are working to build a community of faith.
“They have made an open environment for students to feel at home as well as feel comfortable being the sons and daughters in Christ that they are,” Bastian said.
“It’s nice to have a place you can go to have an authentic conversation and meet equally authentic people who know exactly what you’re going through,” Murphy said.
When asked what keeps their ministry thriving, Dave responded, “It’s all about the love of people. It’s not hard to evangelize when you start loving people.”
Students involved at the Newman Center feel the Kinsmans’ love.
“When I first met Dave and Dawn, I could immediately tell that they loved what they did,” Murphy said. “I could tell how passionate they were about the Newman Center and how much they cared about each student that walked through the Newman Center doors.”
“Both Dave and Dawn lead by example so that the students can follow in their footsteps,” Bastian said.
Dave stressed his work with students is about more than living faith-filled lives during four years of college; it’s about becoming strong Catholics who can take what they learned to their own home parishes. He tells students, “This (faith-filled life) is reality.”
Through their leadership, the Kinsmans try to inspire students to strive for an intimate relationship with God and closeness with others.
“Dave and Dawn live with the mentality that God has put them on this Earth to serve others,” Cardinale said. “Every day since I’ve met them, they’ve done just that.”
Through their work at the Newman Center, the couple has created a community of faithful Catholic young adults with a yearning for Christ and a yearning to spread his word.
“The wonders are things are alive here,” Dave said.