Dinner with the Deacon

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Maintaining an engaged Catholic community is vital to the University of Dallas. When faculty make themselves open resources to students, they foster spiritual growth and relationships unique to this campus. Deacon Ryan Sales’s entire family, as a testament to this community, now lives in a student apartment. Sales began his role as UD’s Campus Minister for men two years ago, with his wife Anna and daughter Aspen moving in during May 2023.

Mrs. Sales, as of August of last year, also holds a position in both the Office of Student Affairs and the Counseling Center as a case manager.

Inadvertently, staying on campus influences the Sales family. When asked about how being inundated with UD culture influences their work, Dcn. and Mrs. Sales acknowledged that interacting with students (and their activities) is a major contributor. “How we want to influence the culture was really captured by the question that I got asked when we first moved here, which was ‘How are you going to live on campus and not have the students know that you’re living here?’ My response was, ‘We’re not – that’s completely the opposite of what our mission is here,’” Dcn. Sales said. “Our mission is to be visible and available.”

“Experiencing the lived life and culture of UD […] really makes us do our ministry. Even independent of our roles, I think that [living here] would impact how I interact with students – how I would support them in different needs,” Mrs. Sales added.

The pair cited many specific examples, such as their presence in the mud at Groundhog, a breakfast they organized for all of the students and workers in the campus apartment buildings, and offering students supplies in a pinch.

In order to make a bigger group of students aware of their family’s charitable work, the Sales family has decided to start hosting dinners every Monday night.

“This is about us getting to spend time with the students, and also trying to establish and remind people that you can be in a student apartment, and it can be a home,” Dcn. Sales said.

Dcn. Sales then explained how working with his wife strengthens the couple’s connection with students.

“We cross refer to each other all the time, and it works really nice when instead of me just sending the student over to counseling services, I can call my wife. […] Our jobs complement each other,” he said. “When we leave the ‘office,’ we don’t stop caring about the students. […] We’re giving it our all because we love the students here not as a job, but individually.” Mrs. Sales then noted how her daughter Aspen benefits from exposure to the best aspects of UD.

“We hope that we’ve modeled to [Aspen] that there are people who will be in your life who we hope will do the same [work] in terms of serving students. […] She’s very much a part of our mission and our ministry here. She supports us in our jobs, which is important as well because one day she will hopefully be attending UD and then have her own experience. I hope she can look back at this time with appreciation and a better grasp of her own self,” she said.

Dcn. Sales corroborated, saying that the presence of a family unit that glorifies God makes his family’s work distinct in a necessary way.

“We are here on a very radical mission, where we’re a whole family ministry in a sense, and we haven’t drawn distinctions. […] We made a decision that we were going to go all in for Jesus, and that we would consecrate ourselves to the Holy Spirit, and that we would always say yes, no matter what the Spirit asked us to do,” Dcn. Sales said. “The reason why we have the life that we have here is not because we earned it, not because we’re owed it, but simply because of the fact that we said yes.”

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