Mike Hentges credits God’s guidance — and the upbringing that taught him to listen for it — with his role advancing the pro-life mission in his hometown and beyond. 

Mr. Hentges, a 1992 graduate of Helias Catholic High School, is the CEO of St. Raymond’s Society, a Central Missouri-based nonprofit organization that works to support women facing unplanned pregnancies both before and especially after becoming mothers.

The idea for St. Raymond’s Society was born on a bus in 2002, when Mr. Hentges was on his way home from the March for Life in Washington, D.C.

“I was thinking about what we were out there doing and really let my mind go to the place of: ‘What if the law were changed? What if abortion was made illegal?’” he remembered. “I thought, ‘Man, there would be a lot of women who would face unplanned pregnancies who would need a lot of help.’

“And then I thought one step further: ‘Doesn’t that need exist today? Who’s helping them after the baby is born, and who’s helping them long term?’

“A small thought in my head popped up: ‘How about you, Mike?’”

That small thought stayed with him for the next eight years as he continued with his career in small business ownership and commercial grounds maintenance. Believing he was unqualified but trusting God’s guidance, he and friend Steve Smith founded St. Raymond’s Society in 2010, gathering resources and networking with local pregnancy help centers to help support mothers on a path toward self-sufficiency for themselves and their families.

They quickly found that the most pressing need for these mothers was a roof over their heads. In 2012 St. Raymond’s Society opened its first transitional home in Jefferson City, followed by a second home in Columbia in 2014.

Two more homes — one in Rolla and one in the state of California — started under the umbrella of St. Raymond’s Society and now are operated by other local agencies.

“Now we are focusing our efforts right here in the heart of Missouri to increase our capacity to where we can serve a larger radius, and we are looking to create a model that other areas can replicate,” Mr. Hentges said.

St. Raymond’s Society is in the process of purchasing the former Ronald McDonald House in Columbia to expand its transitional housing in that community, with plans to open a preschool next door to serve clients and other families on a sliding fee scale.

“We’re excited for this next growth phase and trusting that God will provide what we need to continue to move this mission forward,” Mr. Hentges said.

The organization’s growth marks a new chapter for Mr. Hentges as well, as he resigned from his career as president of a commercial grounds maintenance company in 2019 to lead St. Raymond’s Society full time.

“Without my upbringing I probably never would have started St. Raymond’s Society and I would never have left my career to do this full time,” he said.

In wanting to honor his father — Ray Hentges, a longtime educator at Helias Catholic — when founding the organization, Mr. Hentges researched whether there was a notable St. Raymond who could serve as its namesake. That’s when he discovered the 13th century saint who is the patron of unborn babies, newborn babies and expectant mothers.

He credits his parents for fostering an environment that taught him how to discern God’s will.

“The Helias community seemed to be an extension of my family. From as early as I can remember, especially with Dad’s involvement here as a religion teacher, what I was hearing in the classroom was what I was hearing in the living room at home and around our dinner table,” he said. “The Helias experience and community just strengthened and solidified my faith formation at a critical time in my life. … I would say that both the academic and faith formation at Helias was instrumental in helping me be the person God has called me to be.”

Mike Hentges currently lives in Columbia with his wife, Jami. Together they have four children and are parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.

Do you know a Helias Catholic graduate living the Crusader way? Email suggestions of alumni to feature to rvossen@heliascatholic.com.