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CUC Alum Returns as New School Chaplain

Julian Perez
The Reverend Simeon Raddatz attending the reception of the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony in the Ferguson Art Gallery on Nov. 28.

When the Rev. Simeon Raddatz arrived to Concordia University Chicago on Oct. 2, he entered a campus he had walked the grounds of plenty of times while receiving his education in the pre-seminary program. Now, 10 years after he graduated, Raddatz returns to CUC not as a guest, but as the new university chaplain.

“I certainly expected to visit Concordia as an alum, and, since graduating from CUC and from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, I have preached in the Chapel of Our Lord,” says Raddatz. “I did not ever expect to return to Concordia as a staff member, let alone as the University Chaplain.”

Following the departure of the Rev. Jeffrey Leininger in early 2023, Concordia began searching for a new school chaplain. On Sep. 5, CUC announced that Raddatz had accepted that call.

Prior to accepting the call to CUC, Raddatz served as the sole pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Perkin, Illinois, Raddatz’s first call after earning his Master of Divine degree at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis in 2017. A college campus is a vastly different environment than a small town church however, and Raddatz acknowledges that the school position comes with unique challenges.

Coming from a smaller congregation, one challenge is certainly keeping up with all the moving parts and departments that make up the university,” says Raddatz. “Being the chaplain requires a lot more collaboration and teamwork than what I had been used to.”

Raddatz also recognizes that the student body of CUC presents challenges as well. He is now called to serve young adults who are going through a transformative period in their life. In that way, Raddatz is serving a homogeneous congregation. At the same time, CUC’s congregation is filled with students from different cultural, geographical, and spiritual backgrounds. Serving a congregation that is similar in one way but still very diverse will take adjusting, says Raddatz. 

“It is both a great challenge, but also a wonderful, God-given opportunity to serve in this setting,” says Raddatz. 

The search for Raddatz began shortly after Lenininger announced he accepted a position at First Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church in Chicago. A search committee formed, consisting of staff members, students, the board of regents, and the Northern Illinois District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), says the Rev. James Lee, Ph.D., an associate professor of theology who headed the search committee. 

With the position posted, the committee evaluated applicants based on three criteria: a pastor serving an LCMS congregation or institution, someone who desired to work with college students from a variety of backgrounds, and someone excelling in preaching, worship leading, catechesis, pastoral care, counsel, and outreach. After interviewing several candidates, the committee believed Raddatz met and excelled in said criteria best, says Lee. 

Oct. 2 was Raddatz’s first day back on campus, and he has spent his first two months acclimating to his new role at CUC.

“It has been a great joy meeting many of the students and getting to know faculty and staff,” says Raddatz. “As many have said, though, it truly does feel like drinking out of a firehose.”

Raddatz conducts daily chapel services, regularly meets with university leadership, dines with students in the cafeteria, and hosts office hours. At the same time, Raddatz was in the middle of moving to a new house. 

Leininger was Raddatz’s campus pastor and pre-seminary director while the latter attended CUC. The difference in experience between the two pastors is something Raddatz is cognizant of. 

“I suppose one challenge would simply be my lack of experience in the campus ministry setting, whereas Pastor Leininger served at Concordia for over 20 years,” says Raddatz. “I have a lot to learn, and that will take time.” However, Raddatz does believe his youth will provide a fresh new perspective. 

Despite his relative inexperience, Raddatz already knows his major goal as campus chaplain.

“While here, I hope to find ways as the university chaplain to engage a wider range of the undergraduate student population so that I can minister to students with God’s Word also beyond the walls of the chapel,” says Raddatz. He continues that this will be achieved through using already established avenues to do so, but also by changing or creating new paths to reaching his goal.

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About the Contributors
Peter Borkowski
Peter Borkowski, Reporter
Julian Perez, Photographer