Saint Leo welcomed the Reverend Randall Meissen as university chaplain in October 2020, and he now leads the University Ministry team. Meissen is a member of the religious order, the Legion of Christ, and was ordained as a priest in 2014. Prior to coming to Saint Leo, he served as sacramental associate at Our Savior Parish and the University of Southern California Caruso Catholic Center in Los Angeles. He also is a doctoral candidate in the history department of USC.
- Describe yourself in three words:
Inquisitive, analytic, compassionate
- Where did you grow up and what makes it special to you?
I grew up on a small farm just outside of Salisbury, MO. The farm was a wonderful place to grow up, surrounded by the outdoors and open countryside. A good part of my extended family is in the area, so I will always treasure memories of a childhood surrounded by faith and family.
- What was your first job?
There was never a shortage of chores to be done on the farm. However, the first job I remember getting paid for was cutting weeds out of my uncle’s soybean field.
- When did you know that the priesthood was your future?
The call to the priesthood was an unexpected turn of events in my life. I went to college as a biology major and was extremely focused on getting into medical school as a career goal. However, after being involved in a car accident that took the life of one of my friends, I started to re-examine the big questions in life and turned intensely to prayer. Amid that process of deepening in my faith and becoming more involved with student ministry on campus, I experienced a call to the priesthood and decided to enter the seminary with the Legionaries of Christ after graduating from college.
- Who is your favorite saint and why?
My favorite saint has to be John Paul II. He left a profound impact on the modern papacy and brought a new enthusiasm of spreading the gospel to all corners of the world. The so-called “John Paul II generation” of Catholics is a fruit of his outreach to young people at World Youth Days and has been a source of great innovation and revitalization in the church in my lifetime.
- What is your favorite Bible verse/Scripture?
One of my favorite passages is the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11–32. That parable is powerful in how it describes the capacious mercy of God who, like a good father, hastens to embrace a lost child upon his return home.
- Where is the most interesting place you have ever been?
I once had the chance to tour the papal gardens around Castel Gandolfo (the traditional summer retreat for the popes) with the Vatican’s top Latin translator as a guide.
- What excites you the most about Saint Leo University?
Our students are the most exciting part! I love that our community is amazingly diverse. We must have a record for the most students from small island nations. Sometimes it stretches my geographic knowledge to the limit; I had never met anyone from Cabo Verde or from the Commonwealth of Dominica before coming to Saint Leo.
- How would you describe your homily style?
You probably should ask students for a more objective opinion! In preparing homilies, I start by praying over the day’s readings and asking for light from the Holy Spirit. I try to keep things lively with stories and examples connecting the Bible message to students’ lives.
- Is there a myth about priests that you would like to dispel?
I hope I can dispel the myth that priests are always boring! As the adage goes, “a sad saint is a bad saint,” and I see priesthood as a divinely inspired quest for sanctity…not a boring endeavor.
- What do you think our Catholic Identity calls us to do?
Catholic universities are animated by a Christian anthropology that affirms each person as having a transcendent destiny and a worldview that sees continuity in truth, goodness, and beauty. This goes beyond merely fostering a higher education environment where faith reflection and practice are welcomed alongside rigorous academic study.
- Do you have any hobbies and what are they?
In my free time, I enjoy hiking, running, Ultimate Frisbee, kayaking, and exploring parks and museums.
- What is your favorite song, artist, TV show, podcast, and/or book?
I love [Giovanni Battista] Pergolesi’s hauntingly beautiful setting of the Stabat Mater, a hymn addressed to the Blessed Virgin Mary as she stood at the foot of the cross. The fact Pergolesi composed it in his final days of life makes it even more moving.
- What are you enjoying about Saint Leo and Florida?
I am amazed by the pristine natural beauty of this area of Florida. Our lakeside campus is a treasure, and I have also enjoyed taking day trips to some of the nearby crystal-clear, spring-fed rivers and to Florida’s beaches. Winter in Florida is hard to beat!
- What is something that most people do not know about you?
Sometimes people are surprised that I know a lot about insects. During high school and college, I had my own small business that sold insect collections to biology teachers, and I trapped and collected most of the insects myself. I paid for my first car in college out of the profits from selling insects. Dead grasshoppers for a set of wheels was a great trade!