De La Salle, University of Detroit Mercy all-star inspired by the missionary path his older brothers walked
STERLING HEIGHTS – Paul Manuszak has had a yearning for a while to do “something like missionary kind of work.”
That notion started brewing in his mind when he was 8 or 9 years old, and his oldest brother, Stephen, joined the Peace Corps and served two years in Armenia.
And then, his other brother, Joseph, seven or eight years later, signed up for the Peace Corps and served two years in Tonga.
“So growing up,” said Paul, who’s now 24, “I saw both of them going to the Peace Corps and that influenced me. I saw how it had profoundly changed their lives. It kind of planted a seed in the back of my head that maybe that was something I wanted to do someday.”
Life in the Manuszak household centered around the Catholic faith.
“My dad entered the seminary right after high school for two years,” Paul said, “but he decided he wanted to be a father and have a family.” His father, Joe, is an administrator for Jesuit-run Colombiere Retreat and Conference Center in Clarkston.
“I worked there,” Paul said, “and talked to a lot of the Jesuits who live there. I heard some incredible stories of service. It was a positive impact.”
“My mother, Lynn,” Paul said, “was always there with me raising me in the Catholic faith, the most important thing in her life.”
Paul, along with his four siblings attended St. Lawrence Grade School in Utica. He and his brothers graduated from Warren De La Salle: Stephen in 2002, Joseph in 2011, and Paul in 2017. His sisters are Warren Regina alumnae: Lauren Foster in 2005, and Mary Marchese in 2008.
“I’m an uncle to 10 nieces and nephews,” Paul said.
At De La Salle, Paul earned four varsity letters in lacrosse and two in tennis. In both sports, he received All-State, All-Catholic and All-Macomb County commendations.
At the University of Detroit Mercy, he received numerous honors including All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference First Team and all-conference academic team, and was the third Titan in history to play in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association All-Star game.
A month ago, he was inducted into the Catholic League Hall of Fame.
Paul pursued a career in chemical engineering at General Dynamics after graduating from the University of Detroit Mercy.
However, all the while the thought nagged at him “of doing something like what my brothers did, but I wanted to do something more faith-based. The Peace Corps is government. I wanted to do something with the Catholic church. I wanted to do something international.”
He first heard about Belize talking to Jesuits who had a presence there going back to 1851, but who have suspended international missions in the wake of the COVID pandemic.
A cousin encouraged Paul to check with the Society of Our Lady of the Most Blessed Trinity (SOLT), a missionary community of priests, consecrated nuns and brothers, and volunteer laity serving missions in the United States (in eight dioceses, including the Archdiocese of Detroit at Holy Redeemer Parish since 2011), Belize, Mexico and the Asia-Pacific region.
The job description of a volunteer missionary – leaving home for a time, discovering a unique and different culture, living in a community with others who are also seeking to make a radical gift of their lives – was the answer to Paul’s quest “to help me realize what God wants for the rest of my life.”
He made a one-year commitment to SOLT, quit his job, and is in the midst of preparing for his Aug. 1 departure from Detroit Metropolitan Airport for an 8-hour flight to Belize and a two-hour road trip to his mission destination, Benque Viejo del Carmen.
Belize is bordered by Mexico to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and Guatemala to the west and south. It also shares a water boundary with Honduras to the southeast. At 442,000, it is the least populated and least densely populated country in Central America.
English is the official language reflecting its history as a British colony. Belize gained its independence in 1981. Spanish is the second-most-commonly-spoken language.
“Benque” (population 6,200) is the westernmost town in Belize on the border with Guatemala. SOLT’s presence in Benque began in the late 1960s in the areas of health care and pastoring. It has expanded into education, a print shop, a Catholic bookstore, a media center and a radio station.
In 1990, SOLT founded Our Lady of Mount Carmel High School. The school began with only volunteer teachers and a one-room school building. Now it has a thriving campus, a full-time staff of Belizean teachers and 20 to 25 missionary teachers and over 400 students, many of whom cross the border from Guatemala.
In 2013, SOLT opened the John Paul II Junior College offering a two-year associates program with the Catholic tradition in higher education. Its academic program centers on English, theology and catechetics, business administration, and the classics.
“I don’t have too much of a clear idea what I will be doing,” Paul said. “I think I may be teaching at the junior college. There’ll be older kids that I’ll have an impact on their lives, in return, they are having an impact on my life helping me realize what God wants for the rest of my life, whether returning to engineering or taking a new career path, maybe teaching or religious life.
“I’m kind of open to everything right now. It’s a big journey discerning what God’s will is for the next steps in my life.”
Contact Don Horkey at [email protected]