Fr. Kyle Walterscheid left his work in structural engineering to draw up roadmaps to Heaven

by Jerry Circelli

Correspondent

North Texas Catholic

Fr. Kyle Walterscheid, pastor of St. John Paul II University Parish in Denton, is a former engineer who is using new designs to build bridges toward Christ’s kingdom. (Photos by Jerry Circelli)

Fr. Kyle Walterscheid, pastor of St. John Paul II University Parish in Denton, is a former engineer who is using new designs to build bridges toward Christ’s kingdom. (Photos by Jerry Circelli)

If you drive the highways and byways of Fort Worth, chances are you regularly travel over several of the 50 bridges in the area designed by Father Kyle Walterscheid, pastor of St. John Paul II University Parish in Denton.

From 1990 to 1995, before he became a priest, designing bridges was the nature of Fr. Kyle’s work. With a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s in structural engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington, Fr. Kyle spent a decade studying and working in a field he truly enjoyed.

“I loved it,” Fr. Kyle said. “I just loved it, but there were other bridges to build.”

Those bridges would involve leading the faithful along the path to Christ, and Fr. Kyle said he heard the call from God growing louder while he was focusing on structural engineering in college.

“I really felt a very strong nudge to be doing something beyond that,” he said.

“I felt called to do something directly, rather than indirectly,” Fr. Kyle explained. The priest said that he enjoyed his job as a bridge designer because it involved helping people reach their destinations safely and efficiently. The job, however, entailed working behind closed doors, away from the people he was helping.

“I felt God calling me into something much more direct,” Fr. Kyle said. While he knew the calling was to the priesthood, Fr. Kyle said he asked himself the same question that many seminarians ask: “Why me?”

The young engineer sought the answer through quiet dialogue with God.  “I think my prayer life really developed over those five years and finally got me to the seminary doors. And I never looked back.”

After attending Assumption Seminary in San Antonio, Fr. Kyle was ordained in 2002 for the Diocese of Fort Worth. He has served at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Arlington and with the Diocese of Fort Worth as both associate director and director of vocations. In 2012, he was named pastor of St. John Paul II University Parish.

In his current role as pastor, Fr. Kyle has spent three years helping build a local Church community that is unlike any other in the diocese.

Father Kyle Walterscheid (center) poses with students and members of Saint John Paul II University Parish.

“We are a non-territorial parish,” Fr. Kyle explained. “We’re not defined by boundaries.”

Saint John Paul II University Parish is constituted primarily of students at the University of North Texas (UNT) and Texas Woman’s University (TWU), both in Denton, along with current and retired staff and faculty of the universities, alumni, and parents of students. The diversity of the faithful is even more evident, considering that students hail from throughout Texas, as well as other states and several countries. Add to that the fact that the student population is constantly in transition.

While Masses are currently being held at non-denominational chapels at UNT and TWU, the new parish will have a home next year with the construction of a new pastoral center and chapel.

Following a long history of Catholic ministry on the campuses, the Church serving this area has seen significant growth under Fr. Kyle’s leadership the past three years.  From a campus ministry served by visiting priests, it has evolved into a parish that supports itself financially, and benefits from two full-time workers, and several part-time workers. In addition, the parish is now affiliated with a Knights of Columbus council, a Catholic Daughters of the Americas court, and a Catholic sorority for female TWU and UNT students. 

Fr. Kyle sees tremendous potential for the parish citing Catholic Campus Ministry Association statistics that show 35 percent of freshmen attending non-Catholic universities are Catholic.

“UNT and TWU have 36,000 and 12,000 students, respectively, for a total of 48,000 students, along with a total of 10,500 employees and 2,500 faculty members,” Fr. Kyle explained.

“[Conservatively,] if 25 percent of the people at the two universities are Catholic, then we are here to serve 12,000 Catholic students, 2,600 employees, and 600 faculty members.”

The priest draws another parallel between building bridges and building on faith. In engineering, once a successful design is formulated, it can be replicated and modified to fit other applications. The same holds true with the Church parish model for universities. While campus ministries may be suited for small colleges, larger university communities are better suited for the parish structure, he said. The priest is not only building a parish in North Texas, he’s devising a successful parish university model that can lead many more students to Christ.

While his work has been diverse as a parish priest, director of vocations, and now pastor of a unique university parish, Fr. Kyle said he is enjoying the ever-evolving journey. “No one ever knows exactly where their vocation will take them,” Fr. Kyle said.

“Someone once asked, ‘Don’t you need to know everything your vocation entails in order to say “yes” to it?’” Fr. Kyle related. In response to that question, the priest shared an analogy that has guided him.

“Let's say your vocation is like a roadmap and you have to go from Dallas to Chicago all through the night. … You don’t need to know the whole roadmap, all you need to know is the next 100 feet in front of you with the light that the Lord has given you, and you’re eventually going to get there.

“We don’t need to have the whole roadmap all figured out. Let God guide us. He will give us the light that’s going to guide us along the road. I’ve always liked that analogy. It’s worked for me.”

If you drive the highways and byways of Fort Worth, chances are you regularly travel over several of the 50 bridges in the area designed by Father Kyle Walterscheid, pastor of St. John Paul II University Parish in Denton.

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