Talking Dyngus Day with Pastor Matt

If you’ve been around First United Methodist church lately, or seen him around town at Four Winds Field or at the Notre Dame game, you may have met one of our newest board members: Pastor Matt!

Matt has a Masters in divinity from Methodist Theological School in Delaware and a Bachelors from the University of St. Francis right down the road in Fort Wayne. He comes to us from Indianapolis, where he was pastor of the lovely Meridian Street United Methodist Church. Ever since he arrived last June, Matt has been a jolt of energy and a delight to have on the URRC board. 

Since our 4th Annual Sober Dyngus Day celebration is just around the corner and Matt happens to be on the event committee, we sat down for a quick chat about Dyngus Day and adjusting to life in South Bend.

So what have you been up to since moving to South Bend?

Oh, man, well we’ve been taking in the town, you know? We made it to go see the South Bend Cubs, we took in a Notre Dame football game, we’ve been going to a lot of parks.

How has the transition been?

It’s been nice. I’ve had the chance to go out and meet people, especially since we’re right here in the downtown area, you know, I’ve run into Mayor Pete, the city council, and I’ve got to meet a lot of other faith leaders here in the community. I’ve found this to be a big difference from the cozy neighborhood church I was pastor of back in Indy. Here, we’ve got the church, we’ve got the Upper Room, we’ve got the Soup Kitchen, and they’re all right here in the heart of the city—I think that matters.

Were you at all prepared for lake effect snow?

Ha! A lot of people asked me “Do you have snowblower yet?” before we moved up. Luckily we’ve had a real mild Winter this year. I did have one time, I was driving home from Church one night and then snow started coming down like crazy, but mostly it’s been really mild.

You’re on the Sober Dyngus Day committee for the first time and it’s also your first year experiencing Dyngus Day; what has that been like?

I did say “You’ll have to explain to me what Dyngus Day is” when I joined the committee. I’ve heard of it, news stories, politicians who make their way to South Bend this time of year. I know Bill Clinton came to South Bend when he was campaigning the first time, and I think John Kennedy did as well. I had never heard of it before moving to South Bend, so it’s been fun to learn about.

Yeah, here and one other town it’s a big deal.

Buffalo, New York, I think.

Yeah! That’s the one. Had you ever had traditional Polish food before?

[Laughing] Yeah, once. I actually went to a wedding rehearsal dinner here in town before we moved up that was catered with all Polish food, so i had a chance to try Polish sausage, cabbage, the whole thing. But yeah, this will be my very first Dyngus Day celebration.

What are you most looking forward to?

I’m excited about the cultural celebration aspect, getting to take in some polka music and dancing. There are a lot of cultural celebrations following Easter, and I’m glad we get to offer a family-friendly experience for people to enjoy. I look forward to bringing my son as well. 

What’s your favorite thing about South Bend so far?

Great parks. My wife, son, and I have actually visited every park in St. Joseph county, and my son loves all the playgrounds. That, and the cultural mix of the people in South Bend. It’s so different from Indy. Just the history here, the way waves of immigrants have come here and found homes and shaped the culture. You see it in Dyngus Day! The way the history of all the different people who have come here has shaped the way we celebrate and the cultural landscape of the city. 

Well I can’t think of a better way to wrap up. Thanks again Pastor Matt for sharing your time and passion with our community. 

If you want to find out more about our 4th Annual Sober Dyngus Day Celebration, you can read more here.

For me, I really needed time away from my old environment. I needed a place where people are in recovery and are serious about their recovery, a place where I could fit in and give my newly-found recovery a solid foundation.


I’m finally getting better. I'm moving forward.


Life is so much better. I had no idea the sweet life I could have.


My alcoholism was so out of control and so was my life. I had a loss of trust with people who cared about me. It’s devastating. How do you regain that trust?


I came here because of word of mouth about Upper Room. I’ve known about God most of my life, but I did not KNOW God.


I've learned a lot about myself through this process. My character has changed. It's not easy, but with help, I know I can do it. It is God's will, not mine.


The disease is arrested, not destroyed. Each day you have to decide whether you’re going to live or die – because it will kill you.


When you’re in the midst of addiction, you’re also in the midst of loneliness and isolation. It’s hard to shake off. Your defense mechanisms are like a coat that you put on.