Catholic Herald staff
A prominent Catholic speaker and writer is bringing his exuberant ministry to the Diocese of Superior.
Nic Davidson will give talks on Theology of the Body and “Spirit of the Liturgy,” a book by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, June 3-4, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Whittlesey. Both talks are at 7 p.m.
Davidson’s appearance is part of a yearlong celebration of the Whittlesey parish’s 125th anniversary.
Geared toward middle and high school students, the Friday night presentation on Theology of the Body is great for all ages, Davidson said.
Saturday night’s talk covers liturgy, in his words, “the insane depth and life that is coursing through what is happening at Mass.”
Initially a youth minister, Davidson finds himself most inspired not by the church’s younger members – “youth get excited about everything; if you bob for Spam, they get excited” – but by the older generations, whose abidingly faithfulness encouraged his conversion.
“Everywhere I go, I get more excited responses from adults,” he said.
Catholic since 2008, he shares the wisdom and vitality of the church’s teachings.
“I would’ve never joined a church that was dead,” he added. “I never would have left what I did and jump into a cold, empty deadness.”
Speaking of which, his website is titled, rather forebodingly, “Death before death,” but Davidson said it’s a purely literary choice, a variation on a C.S. Lewis quote: “Die before you die, there is no chance after.”
A native of Duluth, Davidson went to school for acting and has been married to his wife, Jacelyn, for nearly 15 years. A trip to Cambodia during their two-year teaching stint in China convinced Jacelyn of the need for medical missionaries, and she decided to become a doctor.
The Davidsons moved to the Caribbean island of Dominica for medical school. They have always known they would adopt children – preferably an older sibling group, because siblings are often overlooked by adoptive parents – and they left the island a full-fledged family.
In a two-part process that required the Davidsons to return to the island for an additional year, they adopted three siblings: Christian, 10; Esther, 6; and Davey, 4.
“It was God’s grace … just to say yes during med school,” Davidson said.
The family lives in St. Cloud, Minnesota, where Jacelyn is in the middle of her three-year residency. They are considering moving to Alaska, underserved medically and ministerially, when she finishes her clinical training.
Raised in the Assemblies of God, the couple first encountered Catholicism at a Tuesday night student Mass at St. Scholastica in Duluth.
“We expected it to be empty, cold, unemotional, unengaged,” Davidson said. They expected “an ancient priest.”
Instead, the celebrant was Fr. Mike Schmitz – young, dynamic, and a popular figure in Catholic youth ministry. The priest was just back from a conference on Theology of the Body, a teaching that would inspire Davidson’s future ministry.
Intrigued, the Davidsons began meeting with Fr. Schmitz from 10 p.m. to midnight every Tuesday.
“He was just patient enough, and he knew the theology enough,” Davidson added.
After about five months, they felt ready for the next step.
“We’re not in the questioning stage anymore,” they thought. “Can we actually do this?”
In 2007, before the couple had become Catholic, Fr. Schmitz called Davidson to ask if he’d be a youth minister. When Davidson said he wasn’t qualified, the priest told him many on the church staff – all three deacons, the director of religious education, the former youth minister and others – were converts.
Davidson accepted the job. When he realized he could receive a paycheck for studying and teaching the faith, “I was kind of a goner,” he said. He knew he’d found his place.
“I went to school for acting,” he added. “The only skill I have in life is talking.”
In 2008, the couple was received into the Catholic Church at St. Benedict, Duluth. Davidson’s career as a Catholic speaker and writer took off after he attended a Theology of the Body conference, taught a course on the subject at St. Benedict, and started fielding requests to give talks for different groups.
His ministry grew, then slowed when they moved to Dominica in 2011. To keep it going, he’d fly back to the States to give a string of talks – often two a day – for a week or two, then fly back to the island.
Since returning to the U.S. in fall 2014, Davidson said he’s been getting more requests to speak, “just all kinds of stuff.”
Besides speaking on a range of topics, including catechetics, liturgy and Theology of the Body, Davidson also writes for a Catholic social networking site, Ignitum Today, and he’s just completed a three-year ministry curriculum for the Diocese of Duluth, which is being used by 40 or 50 parishes in that diocese. The curriculum is free on his website, www.deathbeforedeath.wordpress.com, for now, but he said that will change when the copyright takes effect.
After Jacelyn finishes residency in 2018, they want to return to their original plan – missionary work in poor areas.
“We’re only in the States because we have to be,” he added.