Jamie Cleaton, campus minister at the San Diego State University Newman Center, will receive the Fiat Award at the San Diego diocese’s annual Young Adult Christmas Gala….

The Fiat Award is presented annually by the diocesan Office for Youth and Young Adult Ministry, which organizes the gala. …

“How is someone supposed to respond when they are given an award that is named after the response of the Blessed Mother, (when) they’re given an award based off her perfect ‘yes’?” Cleaton asked..

He expects that it will be “weird” to be standing on stage by himself, when the success of his ministry was made possible by many others, including his wife, Grace; their six children; Father Pedro Rivera, director of the SDSU Newman Center….

“My ‘yes’ doesn’t stand alone. That’s for sure,” the 37-year-old said.

Cleaton grew up in the Ocean Beach area in what he described as “a very blessed Catholic household.” He was homeschooled, and daily Mass was “a part of our curriculum.”

As a fifth-grader, he attended a retreat that had a profound effect on him.

“I remember getting prayed over in this retreat, and I realized for the first time God didn’t just exist, but He actually loved me and loved me personally,” he said.

Cleaton “really started to fall in love with the Church” while attending a nondenominational high school, where he had to research the answers when his Catholic beliefs were challenged by Protestant schoolmates.

Though the reality of the Eucharist kept him from being led away from the Church, he acknowledges the “very dynamic prayer and preaching” in Protestant churches.

“I really want to be a vessel to help bring a dynamic ministry like this to the (Catholic) Church, the home of the sacraments, the home of the fullness. And that’s why I decided to go to college to study catechetics and theology and go into a life of ministry,” said Cleaton, who graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2009.

After graduation, he served as a youth minister at St. Mark Parish in San Marcos and at Sacred Heart Parish in Ocean Beach.

For almost six years, Cleaton has guided campus ministry at SDSU. During that time, he has seen the university’s Catholic community “explode.”

He recalled how a one-day retreat held shortly after his arrival had attracted about 10 or 15 students, while a retreat this past spring drew about 140. Meanwhile, a “handful” of Bible studies has grown to more than 15, Sunday Mass attendance is so high that “we barely fit in our building,” and 26 men from the Newman Center attended the diocese’s recent Explorer Day to learn more about priestly life….

From the Southern Cross