Chaplain Brian Honsberger fills both spiritual and volleyball voids at FDU
Brian Honsberger (center), a former Team USA volleyball athlete-turned Catholic campus minster shepherds two flocks at FDU, a spiritual one and an athletic one.
By Dan Landau
Tim Tebow isn’t the only Christian athlete around FDU. While Tebow is playing for the Jets (who practice across the street in Florham Park) amid a media circus, former Team USA athlete Brian Honsberger is quietly working as the campus minister for the College at Florham, as well as other colleges within the Catholic Diocese of Patterson.
Based out of St. Paul Inside the Walls (located next to the College at Florham), Honsberger is a Minster to Generation Y. Prior to his work with the church, Honsberger played on the U.S. National Volleyball Team as a middle hitter.
Oddly enough, Honsberger says in high school, “basketball was my passion and that was what I really focused on. I played volleyball to stay in shape for basketball.” He was so good at his secondary sport, that in his junior year of high school, he started getting scholarship offers from colleges who wanted him to play volleyball for them.
He ended up playing volleyball for Rutgers and played so well, that he got an invitation to play on the U.S. team at the 2005 World University Games in Izmir, Turkey. At the World University Games, the best college athletes from around the world play for their national team and compete against each other. “The World University Games were my initiation to the world of international competitions,” says Honsberger.
Although Honsberger’s team lost in at the World University Games, a big chance came out of the experience: “While I was playing for the World University team, the coach for the Olympic team asked me to join Team USA,” says Honsberger.
The U.S. Olympic volleyball team has a roster of 30. From those thirty guys, there is a travel team of 12 who travel for games (like the Olympics). “I was invited to the team of 30 that lives and works out fulltime at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado,” explains Honsberger. “But even though I am 6’5,” I was still half a foot under height for the position I played.”
Given his size limitations, Honsberger realized that he was never going to make it to the Olympics and he left the team to pursue another passion of his: faith. “I felt like I went as far as I could in volleyball,” says Honsberger.
He returned to New Jersey and began working in campus ministry with the Catholic Church. “I got into campus ministry because that is what I am passionate about,” says Honsberger. “To me, sports are not that important. They’re fun, but they don’t change people.”
Heavily involved at FDU, Honsberger feeds both his interests for ministry and sports, by serving students both on and off the volleyball court. On the court, Honsberger helps as an assistant coach for the women’s Devils volleyball team as well as starting a men’s volleyball club. Off the court, Honsberger is a minister to students and runs the main Christian group on campus.
“My job is very easy,” says Honsberger. “It’s not to convert people. It’s not to convince people, or force people to believe something. It’s simply inviting people to develop a personal relationship with Jesus.”
Seeing a need on campus, Honsberger has been working to fill it since he started as campus minister last June. “Part of the reason I am here,” says Honseberger, “is that there isn’t really a spiritual atmosphere here. College is about exploring and if you have an interest in exploring your spiritual life, there should be something available for you.”
Honsberger notes that in the past several months, he has gained quite a bit of traction among the students at FDU. “The focus is on Sunday liturgy, and the Sunday Masses attract 150 students,” says Honsberger. To complement the large Sunday Masses, a smaller Mass is held on Wednesdays and a Bible study on Mondays, as well as a variety of service projects.
On Saturdays, Honsberger leads the service projects. These projects include working with the Interfaith Food Pantry in Morris Plains, and handing out blankets and shoes at a “tent village” community of homeless people in Morristown.
Outside of his ministry work, Honsberger continues to work with the volleyball athletes on campus. “The Devils volleyball team are the best team on campus for any sport or gender.”
While he liked working with the women’s volleyball team, he found “there were a lot of men at FDU who wanted to play volleyball, but no team.” So, once again, seeing a need on campus, Honsberger set out to fill it—forming a men’s volleyball club. “We’ll play other schools, but we’re not a Devils team, just a club,” he explains.