New priest on the block

Both new this year, the Campus Ministry dynamic duo of Fr. Michael Bremer and Mr. Zahi Ikhwan help students grow in their faith


Staff photo

Mr. Ikhwan and Fr. Michael take a break on Field Day after playing an intense game of soccer.

Lindsey Nelson, Staff Writer

The typical priest resides in a local parish where chapel bells, post-mass conversations, and a little bit of office work fill the day. Not many envision themselves back in high school with school bells, teenage drama, and admin meetings, but this is the new reality for St. Pius X Chaplain Fr. Michael Bremer. 

Fr. Michael previously worked at St. Brigid Catholic Church when he learned of his new appointment from the Archbishop. 

“I was shocked but at the same time I was very excited. Normally the trajectory of a priest is to simply be in a church so to find out that I was doing what’s called a special ministry, I was very honored and excited,” he said.

St. Brigid is affiliated with Holy Redeemer, an Archdiocesan K-8 school, so he had little experience with high schoolers prior to joining the St. Pius community in July.  

“The biggest difference is to whom I minister,” Fr. Michael said. “When I was at St. Brigid, I would minister to anybody from the elementary school up until the elderly.”

He admitted that there was definitely an adjustment period. 

“Some days have been really easy and smooth sailing, but other days it’s been like, ‘Oh this is a thing!’ so like a little crisis mode. Overall the transition has been good, but there has been a really steep learning curve,” he said. 

Fr. Michael still finds time to keep a routine and add aspects of his personality to Campus Ministry. You can occasionally find him indulging in his guilty pleasure, raw cookie dough, or spending time in daily prayer.

“I spend an hour in silent prayer every day; not because I am holy (I’m not), but because I just want to get to know Jesus,” he said. “It doesn’t even have to be an hour! Any time we give, God is grateful!” 

Director of Campus Ministry Mr. Zahi Ikhwan, the new joined St. Pius this year alongside Fr. Michael. Originally thinking he would become a priest, Mr. Ikhwan attended seminary in Chicago at the same time as Fr. Michael. While Fr. Michael continued and Mr. Ikhwan pursued a different vocation, they crossed paths again at St. Pius. 

“As a friend, it is a particular joy to watch him flourish in his vocation as a priest and father. It’s also really cool to be able to work and minister alongside someone who I’ve known for a while,” Mr. Ikhwan said. “It really makes coming to St. Pius something special that I get to do every day.” 

Taking over a program like Campus Ministry can be daunting when both staff members are brand new. However, this opportunity allowed Fr. Michael and Mr. Ikhwan to set their own tone and work through obstacles together, so neither see their inexperience as a true disadvantage. 

Mr. Ikhwan said, “Something I always come back to is they really emphasized the familial aspect of St. Pius. You’re stepping into a family, you’re stepping into a community that will really take care of you and love you no matter what, and I think that’s been pretty evident in the first few months.”

Their predecessors Fr. Rey Pineda and Mrs. Abby Bettencourt gave them this great advice and prepared them well for the transition.

When the weather is warm, faculty and students can find them playing kan jam every Friday during lunch, and they recently kickstarted their Campus Ministry instagram account to feature activities such as the Domini Sumus retreat and important feast days.

With more big plans for the future including the return of pilgrimages and the introduction of a boys’ retreat, they look forward to the rest of their time here at St. Pius.