Dave Endres was just a few days into his college career at Xavier University when he found himself in the middle of a controlled chaos known as Club Day on the Mall. Each of the student clubs were given a folding table that lined the sidewalks outside of the dorms and would try to recruit new students as they meandered about, like a college version of a street market.
As Endres walked past the St. Vincent de Paul Xavier Conference table, he stopped. He recognized the name from his home parish but really knew nothing about the organization.
“What do you do?” he asked.
“We tutor kids at a nearby elementary school,” they said.
“I can do that,” he said.
He joined, and by the end of the year his interest in the organization and propensity for leadership sparked the Conference president to simply hand him the reins. Over the next three years, the Conference went from 15 members to 75. It expanded the number of schools it tutored at, began serving Holy Communion to members of a nearby nursing home each week, and worked down at the Bank Street Outreach Center each weekend. It helped the Nativity Conference with home visits and held weekly prayer meetings.
“I don’t even know if Bank Street knew Xavier had a Conference at first,” Endres now says. “At some point before I got there I think it went rogue.”
He got the Conference back in line and expanded its good works.
“We took to heart Frederic Ozanam’s saying about no works of charity are foreign to the society,” he says. “We would always do things together, two by two, putting ourselves out there. We would do trick or treat for canned goods in North Avondale, or coat and clothing drives in Hyde Park. They weren’t organized. We would just go into the neighborhoods and go door to door and ask if they had anything. We were operating out of dorm rooms. We would bring them back and put them in one guy’s room and when we had free time a week or so later we would put them in a car and take them down to Bank Street. I remember once we were on our way back and we realized we accidentally gave away his coat as well.”
Today, sitting at a table in his office at The Athenaeum of Ohio and Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Endres laughs at the memories. He may have made an impact on the Conference, he says, but the Conference actually had an even larger impact on him.
When he was 14 years old, Endres first began to feel the nudge toward becoming a priest—a scary but intriguing thought that followed him as he grew. He prayed for more men to be called to priesthood—not him, of course, but others. While at Xavier he started attending daily Mass and met with his spiritual director, Fr. Tom Kennealy, on a regular basis.
But the Conference work gave him a sense that maybe priesthood really was what he was intended to do. Specifically, it gave him a taste of what it was like to lead people spiritually.
“The first real tangible impact the Conference had on me was being able to see Christ in other people—tutoring kids, bringing communion to nursing homes. We saw people every week. We performed a great deal of service hours in high school, but going into these places, dealing with people one on one, really feeling connected and seeing the love of Christ in those relationships. That made an impact.”
Upon graduation, he chose to head to grad school instead, studying Church history at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He earned both his master’s and doctorate degrees there before finally deciding to finally stop ignoring the nudges and answer the call.