Outstanding ASU Alumnus connected with faith through study of music
As Reverend Michael B. Chrisman '04 walks along the sidewalk on a warm summer day in July, Vacation Bible School students begin leaving Alamosa's Sacred Heart Church with their parents. Faces light up when they greet Chrisman. The children beam up at him, while fathers and mothers exchange pleasantries. An obvious fondness and connection exists between the parishioners and their priest.
Possibly one of the youngest alumni to receive the Adams State University Outstanding Alumnus Award, Chrisman said he was "speechless" when the Alumni Board came to his office to deliver the news. He will accept the award at the 2015 Adams State University Alumni Banquet and Awards Ceremony during Homecoming, Oct. 2. For reservations and tickets, call the Alumni Relations Office at 719-587-8110.
Holding a music education degree from Adams State, Chrisman was ordained a Catholic Priest in 2011 and has been serving as the Parish Administrator for Sacred Heart Church in Alamosa for a year. Before accepting that post, he was Director of Vocations and the Director of Liturgy and Worship for the southern half of Colorado.
Chrisman was nominated for the award by Daisy M. Ortega '75, who said, "His success as the director of vocations and a parish priest resulted in numerous young men discerning their vocation to the priesthood. He uses his musical abilities almost daily in the celebration of mass. Through his vocation and the sacraments he has administered, he has touched many lives, from birth to death. He does not know the definition of the word 'no.'"
A graduate of Pueblo Centennial High School, Chrisman hadn't heard of Adams State before an admissions counselor visited his high school. Even 15 years later, Chrisman remembers the counselor's energy about Adams State.
"That positiveness got a hold of me, and I researched the institution." The idea of small classes and individual attention convinced Chrisman to visit campus. Upon his visit, "the people were so welcoming and wonderful." Chrisman introduced himself to the Music Department, where he would major. "I remembered I felt a great connection. I had found a gem." Chrisman auditioned for Dr. Christine Keitges, emeritus professor of music, and started a "path towards music and ministry."
Once she recognized Chrisman's interest in and devotion to the Catholic religion, Keitges suggested he begin singing in Catholic Mass at Sacred Heart Church. "My connection with music and faith began here in Alamosa with a simple invitation."
Throughout his academic years at Adams State, Keitges became a "great mentor" along with Dr. Betsy Schauer, former Adams State Choral Director. "Their passion for music was contagious. I was taken in by their commitment, and I developed a deeper appreciation for instrumental and vocal music. Dr. Schauer impressed upon me the great beauty expressed in sung speech."
Keitges recalled, "Mike Chrisman was a wonderful student who came in as a freshman with a beautiful voice and a lot of musical ability. He was and is kind, thoughtful, caring, always quick with a smile, and encouraging and supportive of others. His generous spirit and beliefs were apparent in his willingness to sing for mass at Sacred Heart during his undergrad days. And now he is the priest there!"
While attending Adams State, Chrisman began to "seriously look at different positions and careers with a deep connection to prayer." He prayed for guidance, "God, what is it you want me to do to best minister to everyone and grow in my relationship to you?" He was drawn to continue his education and to seek God. "After graduation, I explored the possibility that God might be calling me to be a Catholic priest." He continued with his education, receiving two master's degrees, the first in Catholic Thought and Life, the second in Divinity. On June 23, 2011, he was ordained a Catholic Priest of the Diocese of Pueblo.
"Without my experience at Adams State, I would not be the same person I am today. My friendships cultivated my faith, and it was at Adams Statae when I heard and responded to God's voice and trusted in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. It was a tremendous blessing to study at Adams State."
Although Chrisman values a routine day, including Mass in the morning, office work throughout the day, and seeing people regularly, he really welcomes the "in-between" moments.
"Unexpected moments throughout the day are graced moments. I welcome and appreciate the unexpected amidst the routine; sometimes that is how God speaks to us." He believes the unexpected moments are "centered to happiness in God's plan for us. God is amazing. I try every day to seek and follow the plan God has for all of us."
As a minister and a person of faith, Chrisman is inspired when encountering the people of God. "I am encouraged when people live out their faith in their routine day as they grow in their relationship with Jesus."
Chrisman's parents, Doug and Kathy Crisman, top his list of motivating people. "When I first talked about college they said 'Whichever career path you choose, you will always have our support and our love.' I carry that with me to this day." Another great influence in Chrisman's life is Bishop David Ricken, of the Diocese of Green Bay Wisconsin. "Growing up, as a young alter server, I witnessed the great joy, peace, and fulfillment he had in his own vocation: a Catholic Priest," Chrisman recalled.
If current students were to seek advice from Chrisman, he would say, "College is an excellent time of growth, exploration, and understanding. Persevere in your studies. College is also a great opportunity to grow in all aspects of life and is a treasure trove of blessings. A story in the scripture asks us this: 'Cast your net into the deep' Jesus says. When we do that, trusting in God, we can pull in an amazing haul of fish. This is a lot like our college journey. I encourage you to cast your net into the deep and be surprised by what God might have in store for you."
Breaking out in a quiet laugh, Chrisman answers the question, "Where do you see yourself in five to ten years?"
"I am reminded of the Book of Job: which says, 'So with old age comes wisdom and length of days.' In five to ten years, I see myself with a little more grey hair and wrinkles, continuing to grow with the people of God, serving them, all the while striving daily to grow in my relationship with Jesus alongside the people I serve. I would like to be a little more wise - that is my prayer, anyway."
As Adams State continues to provide a wonderful foundation for great stories, I believe the institution will continue to have a great spirit of hospitality and foster a sense of wonder and awe. As ASU continues to build on its legacy, I also see it continuing to assist students in reaching their academic goals and chosen career paths."
Roman Catholic Priest of the Diocese of Pueblo, Colo. on June 23, 2011 at the Cathedral of The Sacred Heart in Pueblo, Colo. by the Most Reverend Fernando Isern, DD Bishop of Pueblo.
- Bachelor of Arts in Music Education – Adams State University, 2004
- Spanish Language and Culture Study for Religious and Clergy – Cirimex Foreign Language School, Guadalajara, Mexico, 2008
- Master of Art in Catholic Thought and Life – Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, Saint Meinrad, Indiana, 2009
- Certified in One Unit of Hospital Chaplaincy – Saint Vincent Hospital, Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), Indianapolis, Indiana, 2009
- Master of Divinity – Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, Saint Meinrad, Indiana, 2011
- Roman Catholic Priest, Sacred Heart Church, Alamosa, Colo., 2014 until present
- Director of Liturgy and Worship, Diocese of Pueblo, Colo., 2014 until present
- Roman Catholic Priest, Diocese of Pueblo, Colo., 2011 until present
- Parochial Vicar, Sacred Heart Church, Alamosa, Colo., 2011 until 2013 Parochial Vicar, San Juan Catholic Community, Monte Vista, Del Norte, South Fork, Creede, Center, and Saguache, Colo., July 2011 until Feb. 2013