Meet The Staff

Fr. Patrick Baikauskas, OP

Pastor/Director of Campus Ministry |

Father Patrick Baikauskas, OP was assigned to St. Thomas Aquinas in January of 2008 and became Pastor and Director of Campus Ministry in 2010. He was born the youngest of four boys in Crete, Illinois, a small town near the Indiana border. He has a BA in Political Science from Bradley University, and a history working in government under three Illinois governors. When he embraced God’s call to the priesthood in 2001, he was accepted to the Order of Preachers, the Dominicans and studied at the Aquinas Institute of Theology until 2007. Since beginning his Dominican life at St. Tom’s, he has seen the instigation of several new ministries.
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Fr. Cassian K. Sama, OP

Associate Pastor |

Father Cassian, born in Kumba (Yaounde), in the Southwest Province of Cameroon, is one of six children of Dr. Joseph N. Sama and Veronica N. Nsom. He attended Bishop Rogan College, Buea, Cameroon, St. Bede’s College, Ashing, Kom, Cameroon, and received a bachelor’s degree in political science and public administration from the University of Swaziland in 1998. Fr. Cassian was awarded a master of arts degree in public administration in 2003 from Kansas State University. He professed religious vows as a member of the Order of Preachers in August 2005. From 2005-2011, he has studied theology at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, Missouri. Fr. Cassian was ordained in 2011 with his classmate, Fr. Joseph Minuth, OP.

Fr. Cassian comes to St. Tom’s from his first assignment as a priest at St. Paul Newman Center, Indiana University, in Bloomington, Indiana.

Fr. Brent Bowen, OP

Associate Pastor |

Fr. Brent was born and raised in Lewiston, Maine. He attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, earning a BS in Air Traffic Management and a Master of Business Administration in Aviation. He entered the Order of Preachers in 2012 and made his first profession of vows in 2013. He then attended Aquinas Institute of Theology, earning a MA in Theology and a Master of Divinity. He was ordained to the priesthood in May 2019. When not working, Fr. Brent enjoys movies, baking bread, and brewing beer.

Deacon Charles A. (Chuck) Jindrich

Ecumenical-Ministry and Marriage Preparation |

Mari Gmyrek

Development Assistant |

My name is Mari Gmyrek and I am the Development Assistant and Administrative Assistant at St. Tom’s. I got married in the summer of 2019 and had a fabulous time on our honeymoon in Cancun!!

I completed my Associate’s Degree in Office Administration at Ivy Tech in May of 2011. I have been attending St. Tom’s since 1999. I began volunteering in the summer of 2007, and I have worked here since January of 2010. I am very happy to be a part of the St. Tom’s staff and community. Please let me know how I can be of assistance to you!”

Brad Bodine, DMA

Music Director |

G. Bradley Bodine (b. 1960) holds degrees from The Evergreen State College, Pacific Lutheran University and the University of Arizona. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and commissions, including his most recent commission from a consortium of 11 university/college percussion ensembles. Major ensembles and virtuoso performers regularly perform Dr. Bodine’s music. His compositions have been performed at major music festivals throughout the United States and in Europe. His latest composition, “Kaleidoscope: A Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra” was recorded by the Portuguese marimbist, Pedro Carneiro with Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony and was released in 2009. G. Bradley Bodine is the Composer in Residence at both the Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center at Purdue, the Lafayette Symphony Orchestra as well as a Continuing Lecturer of music theory at Purdue University.

Dee Bernhardt

Assistant Director of Campus Ministry |

Dee Bernhardt joined St. Tom’s staff in August 2012. Over the past five years, she has worked with students, faculty, staff and residents to establish leadership teams of authentic disciples for campus ministry at Purdue. Dee believes in the empowerment of communities of disciples who can facilitate encounters with Christ in higher education through creative programming. Before arriving here, Dee has coordinated campus ministry at an urban, commuter cluster; several mid-sized state colleges with Newman Centers; a small, residential Catholic college; an ecumenical center; and a university parish. Dee holds a Master of Science in Religious Education degree from Marywood College and a Master of Arts in Christian Spirituality degree from Creighton University. She holds professional certifications in Campus Ministry from the USCCB/CCMA and in Spiritual Direction/Directed Retreats from Creighton University. In January 2011, Dee was awarded the CCMA Forsyth Award, the most prestigious award given for campus ministry leadership in the United States. In April, 2013, Hallahan High School in Philadelphia, PA, inducted her into the Hall of Fame for excellence in the Humanities.

Grant Freeman

Assistant Director of Campus Ministry |

Grant Freeman, born and raised in Montana, is the eldest of five children and a lover of the great outdoors. He is deeply indebted to his parents, grandparents, and teachers for his education at Gregory the Great Academy and Christendom College where he studied History, Philosophy, and Theology. Grant started out in Manassas, Virginia, as the administrative manager for a company that specialized in luxury Italian footwear and commercial real estate. Following his passion for service, he became the director of youth formation at St. Boniface in Lafayette, Indiana, in 2006. He has since been privileged to teach theology at St. Theodore Guerin High School in Noblesville, Indiana, and serve as the head of the theology department and director of campus ministry for Central Catholic Jr./Sr. High School in Lafayette, Indiana. Grant joined the staff of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Catholic Center at Purdue, in July of 2014. His focus here is to assist in the cultivation of a vibrant Catholic culture that encourages Purdue students to discern how God is calling them to flourish.

Grant and his wife, Claire, have four children, Helen, James, Roland, and Beatrice. He enjoys hunting, fishing, home improvement projects, singing with his children, and deep conversations with his wife.

David Miranda

Echo Apprentice |

I was born and raised in New Orleans, LA and I grew up in a Nicaraguan family (so I’m no stranger to good food, good music, and good times). Music and singing have been a life-long passion of mine. In May 2018, I graduated from Villanova University with a Bachelor’s in Humanities and Communication and a minor in Theology. My formation at Villanova led me to cultivate a love for Augustine and all things good, true, and beautiful in theology, philosophy, literature, and art, especially as illustrating the relationship between the human experience and the divine. I’m particularly passionate about the intersection between art and religious experience from a Catholic perspective. Currently, I’m a graduate student in the University of Notre Dame’s Echo program, a two-year graduate-service program that integrates an M.A. in Theology, service to the Church, spiritual formation, and intentional faith community living. So while working toward a masters degree, I get to serve at St. Tom’s for two years (2018-2020) and live alongside two awesome community members also working in the diocese of Lafayette! I will be working with ministries such as Hispanic Catholics, Bridges of Hospitality, RCIA, and a few mission trips. I’m excited to be journeying in faith with the St. Tom’s community, so please don’t hesitate to email me or stop by my office to chat!

Eileen Strater

Director of Adult Formation |

I am the middle child with 4 siblings, a native of California, but growing up in several different states, including Pennsylvania, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Indiana. I earned a B.S. in Restaurant, Hotel and Institutional Management from Purdue in 1979, and subsequently worked as an administrator in the Purdue Residence Hall System for 18 years. My husband of 40 years also earned degrees from Purdue (we met at Cary Quadrangle), and our two grown children have also attended Purdue. My husband, Roger, works for Purdue in the library system, and our daughter is employed with the university after earning her bachelor’s degree—all of this makes us truly a “Purdue Family.” There is no doubt in any of our minds that our grandson Christopher will also be attending Purdue in about 3 years. Roger and I love to travel to Florida—especially during the Indiana winters—where we enjoy camping (a passion with both of us), and kayaking in the Gulf of Mexico. We also spend a lot of time snorkeling and biking while we are there. When we are at home, my favorite activities include reading, knitting, weaving and gardening. As the Director of Adult Formation with St. Thomas Aquinas, I am involved in many different areas. My primary responsibilities include coordinating the RCIA process for those individuals interested in joining the Catholic Church, as well as planning and implementing various opportunities for adult faith formation. I also coordinate the baptism preparation process, and schedule baptisms. Marriage preparation is another ministry that I am heavily involved with, and I work primarily with engaged couples who are planning to be married outside of St. Tom’s. All of these ministries allow me the pleasure of working closely with both student and resident parishioners of St. Tom’s, which is truly a blessing.

John Strong

Director of Parish Faith Formation |

John was born and raised in Lafayette, IN. Being the product of the Lafayette Catholic School system, he was educated in the Faith during his most formative years. After his graduation from Lafayette Central Catholic in 2008, John attended Purdue University, where he majored in Political Science and earned minors in History and Philosophy. While discerning God’s will in his life, he entered seminary formation at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in 2013 and received the best education that the Church can offer. After three years in the seminary, John earned a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, but ultimately felt the tug of his heart away from seminary formation and back to his home in Lafayette. Upon returning home, John began working at various schools around the Lafayette area. Ultimately, however, he was hired at St. Thomas Aquinas as the Director of Religious Education and Youth Ministry. He considers himself very blessed to be a part of this community, and he looks forward to his future here. If you see him around town, he might be swing dancing, playing his guitar, or having a passionate conversation about something going on in the world. If you ever feel like stopping by St. Tom’s, there’s always a seat in John’s office to discuss our Faith, things going on in the world, or just simply how your day has been. Finally, as John continues with the Lord’s work here, he asks for your prayers as he continues to “spend himself in the vineyard of the Lord.”

Carolyn McKinnis

Coordinator of Parish Faith Formation |

I was born and raised in Tippecanoe County, where our family ties run deep. I grew up in a very small town, Romney, where everyone looked out for everyone else and the corner mini-mart looked just like Mr. Hooper’s! I received a solid Catholic Education, especially from my parents who taught us not just about family prayer, but community prayer. I attended Purdue University in West Lafayette and earned degrees in Spanish and Organizational Leadership and Supervision. My husband, Phil, and I have been blessed with nine children. We are so thankful to be members of the St. Tom’s community and feel deep gratitude to the Dominicans and fellow parishioners who have accompanied us and positively impacted our lives in countless ways. I am very excited to join the staff and look forward to serving the parish. Please don’t hesitate to reach out – I am happy to help!

Judy Pfledderer

Coordinator of Religious Education |

I was born and raised in Crawfordsville and recently retired from the Crawfordsville Community School
Corporation after 30 years of service as an Administrative Assistant at the elementary level. I am excited
to be part of the staff as the Assistant Director of Religious Education. I have been a part of Religious
Education, formerly CCD, since the early 1980’s teaching pre-school through 2 nd grade. I am beginning
my ninth year as a catechist here at St. Tom’s. Currently I team-teach Break Open the Word during the
Liturgy of the Word at 9:00am Mass with our 2 nd graders preparing for First Eucharist. I am also working
with the 2 nd graders in other areas of this Sacramental preparation.
My husband, Paul, and I have attended St. Tom’s for over 20 years. We enjoy being part of the “Coffee and Donuts “ministry on Sundays after 9:00am Mass. We also enjoy traveling, camping, biking and spending time with our children and grandchildren. It is a joy watching all our grandchildren grow and being an active part of their lives. We are blessed to have our family all living within an hour’s drive. Having them living so close makes the holidays and our family gatherings complete.
Paul and I are very happy to be a part of the wonderful St. Thomas Aquinas community.

Mary Riehle

Administrative Assistant to the Pastor |

If you call St. Tom’s and ask to schedule a meeting with Fr. Patrick, you will most likely talk to me. I’m happy to help you and am grateful to be a part of this wonderful community! I’m from West Lafayette, attended St. Mary Cathedral Elementary School when grades one through eight were taught there, graduated from Central Catholic High School before they had uniforms, and am an IUPUI grad. I have worked over twenty years as a graphic designer/art director and as a bookkeeper for our family business while raising five precious children with my husband, Jim. When my beloved son-in-law left this world this past Christmas Eve, it hit me how short life really is and I wanted to surround myself with people that constantly work to improve others’ lives by bringing God’s love to them. I found that at St. Tom’s! I enjoy gardening, biking, movies, organizing, traveling, cooking, and eating and am hoping to actually have time for these hobbies again now that my fourth child is getting her driver’s license!

Dr. Thomas Ryba

Theologian-in-Residence |

Dr. Thomas Ryba is Notre Dame Theologian-in-Residence at the Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center and Continuing Lecturer in Philosophy and Religious Studies at Purdue University. Dr. Ryba did his undergraduate work in philosophy (Honors MA, 1975) and anthropology and his graduate work in the history and literature of religions at Northwestern University (MA, 1982; PHD, 1986). His primary interests are systematic theology, the history of ideas, and the historical relations between theology, religion, philosophy, science, and ideology. Dr. Ryba is the author of The Essence of Phenomenology and Its Meaning for the Scientific Study of Religion (1991) and over fifty articles on theology, philosophical theology, theories of religion, and cinema. He is also principal editor and contributor to The Comity and Grace of Method (2004), one of the contributors to Revelation: Catholic and Muslim Perspectives (2006), co-editor with Sandor Goodhart of For René Girard: Essays in Friendship and in Truth (2008) and co-editor with Vern Redekop and contributor to: René Girard and Creative Mimesis (2014) and René Girard and Creative Reconciliation (2014). He is also presently at work on two books: The Optics of the Antichrist and a textbook, The Abrahamic Traditions: A Significant Structures Approach (forthcoming, autumn, 2015). A member of the editorial board of Religion since 1991, he was North American Editor of from 2004-2007. He is also on the editorial Boards of Humanitas, Phenomenological Inquiry, Agathos, and between 2008 and 2011, he was Vice President of the World Phenomenology Institute. He has just been added to the newly re-constituted editorial board of the Analecta Husserliana (2014) and to the scientific board of a series on the philosophy of A.-T. Tymieniecka to be published by the Italian book house, Morcelliana (2014). Dr. Ryba was the recipient of a Templeton Foundation grant in 1999 for his course “Homologies and Heterologies in the Development of Theology and Science,” and in 2006 received a Metanexus Foundation Grant to found a society for Science and Religion dialogue at Purdue University. Dr. Ryba has been Theologian in Residence at the St. Thomas Aquinas Center since 1990.
Ryba lives in West Lafayette, Indiana, with his wife, Christine Mary, and his mother in law, Rosemary.