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Senior Hannah McIntyre kneels in prayer during ado­ration during prayer at the Grotto. The Grotto | Facebook

A young couple sits on a couch in an old-fash­ioned house, the man, with blonde hair and a youthful smile, holds a laughing baby on his knee.They just came from washing dinner dishes, helped in the kitchen by stu­dents. The child is hardly a year old, the couple enjoys the sta­bility of a home.

But in many ways, they share with the 40 college stu­dents who happen to be eating with them.

The stu­dents were gathered there for Con­vivium, a weekly event orga­nized by Hillsdale’s Catholic Society. It centers on a talk about faith fea­turing a pro­fessor, drawing about that many stu­dents every week, according to Grotto res­i­dents and ’17 grad­uates Tim and Peri Rose Force.

The Grotto, a pretty blue house with white trim on Union Street, can only be described as wel­coming. Long couches line the walls of two living rooms with old-fash­ioned arched entries. Reli­gious icons and photos of smiling stu­dents hang on gray-blue walls.

The Forces, along with their new daughter Marina Eliz­abeth, live in the house as the directors of Catholic min­istry at Saint Anthony’s Catholic Church. With excitement, they explained their mission, their faces warm and smiling.

“To allow people to know Jesus Christ, the person and our Beloved,” Peri Rose said. “And I think this house does that.”

That min­istry includes an open door, allowing stu­dents to come for prayer or the Eucharist in the chapel, as well as the many events the Forces oversee to foster a rich faith com­munity on campus. While there are official morning and evening hours —  7:30 till 10 a.m., and 7 to 11 p.m. — the Forces try to keep the house available.

“We exist as a college min­istry in order to create some­thing that is kind of based around the college student’s schedule,” Tim said. “We try to go out of our way to make sure those hours stay rad­i­cally open and rad­i­cally available to them.”

For the young family, a normal weekday means getting up early to get the house ready before stu­dents come for morning prayers, and staying up late so any stu­dents who came late have the time they need in the chapel. While the house’s open hours end at 11 p.m., often Tim and Peri Rose won’t close the door till mid­night.

“It’s kind of excellent ‘cause every day here is so dif­ferent,” Tim said.

The two embrace their spon­ta­neous life with excitement, describing the days filled with young people. On Mondays, they hold Rosary at 10 pm. “It goes from nice and quiet in the evenings to crazy packed,” which Tim said is tons of fun.

“Everyone floods in and meets together to pray in the evening,” Peri described.

But if the Force’s didn’t embrace spon­taneity, they might not be here now.

Their story together started back in kinder­garten, when they were enrolled in the same school, where they stayed till high school grad­u­ation 12 years later. But they didn’t become friends till they both decided to attend Hillsdale. They started dating as college stu­dents.

“The rest is history,” Tim said, laughing.

They married the summer before their senior year at Hillsdale, and Peri Rose entered the Catholic church in 2016. She said she was worried about leaving the Saint Anthony’s com­munity upon grad­u­ation “because it was so fun­da­mental to my con­version.”  

She noted the good com­munity, having fos­tered rela­tion­ships with local fam­ilies. Pro­fessor of English Dwight Lindley, who was Tim’s aca­demic advisor, and a teacher to both, said he was struck that both were mature beyond their years.

“I don’t know how all that hap­pened to them, but they’re just capable of self-gift in a way that most college stu­dents, and then also early twenty-some­things, are not,” Lindley said.

Their senior year, they watched the Lindley children for a week and a half while the parents went on a trip to Italy.

“Just for that one act of kindness, which most college stu­dents would not be brave enough to undertake — and we have six children — we’re forever in their debt just because of that,” Lindley said.

But that act of kindness wasn’t the only one Lindley remembers. When Tim was a freshman, he helped Lindley rake the leaves in his front lawn, and it became a tra­dition for the rest of his college years.

“He would just call me up in the fall and say, ‘Dr. Lindley, is it time to rake leaves?’” Lindley said, and would spend up to five hours on the lawn.

“And you know, he’s this kind of strapping guy, and made quick work of my leaves, and I have a lot of leaves,” Lindley said. “So they were just both, I would say, great ser­vants in very simple, humble ways in my life, and both in being helpful around the house vol­un­tarily and espe­cially in that one long trip they helped us take.”

On the same day that she prayed for peace about her future and leaving hillsdale, Peri Rose said Emma King, who ran the Grotto with her husband till last year, told her they had passed the Forces name onto Father David Ream­snyder, the priest at St. Anthony’s.

Peri Rose said she thought that it was way too much of a coin­ci­dence for some­thing to keep them in Hillsdale.

“It doesn’t seem like that’s a per­fectly prac­tical reason, but it felt very much like we were being given this as a gift,” she said, as the Grotto had done so much for her and Tim when they were stu­dents.

“We couldn’t pass it up,” she said.

Tim said they liked the idea of “first-fruits.”

“We get out of college. Our greatest asset is our youth and sort of the time we’ve been given,” he said. “So giving that directly back to the church in thanks­giving, giving it directly back to St. Anthony’s and the Grotto in thanks­giving. One way that’s kind of flipped on us is now we feel like we receive so much from the Grotto and from the min­istry. It’s almost like we’re not even being char­i­table in a sense because it’s like. ‘Wow, the more we pour into it, the more we get out of it. It’s sort of crazy.”

Since then, they’ve filled their lives with service. Tim said he loves Thursdays, when they spend all day cooking in prepa­ration for guests. A love for hos­pi­tality and others shows in their enthu­siasm as the young couple describe their routine.

“We’ve grown in a lot of weird ways,” Peri Rose said. “Who would think that grad­u­ating as English majors, we’d just start cooking for people and hanging out with people and just talking to people every night.”

Tim said, “And the way food brings people together and the fun of enjoying food its really actually become a passion for both of us.”

Though the Grotto was estab­lished in 2012, they just came into full own­ership of the house.  Peri Rose said that Father Dave’s vision and work brought every­thing together so quickly.

“I can’t imagine being in his place, and I just feel like he’s done it with such grace and like making this house a reality has been his dream and he has really ful­filled that mission with so much grace in the last couple years,” she said, explaining that he made it suc­cessful because of his love for the min­istry.

“He’s peaceful, he’s so kind, he’s so gen­erous and I feel like that really man­i­fests itself through this house,” she said.