Matt Collins spends a lot of time in church sacristies and school classrooms these days.
But the parishioner of Good Shepherd in Hillsboro has made it more than just his job to help parishes and schools enter the digital sphere with their technology needs. He sees it as a work of evangelization, along with putting his trust in the Lord.
Matt has held a decades-long career in internet technology and computer programming, both in nonprofit and corporate work. But three years ago, he took a leap of faith and stepped out on his own to start 2911 Prosperity, a company that mostly helps create and upgrade parishes’ livestreaming capabilities, as well as helping schools meet virtual learning technology needs in a global health pandemic. Matt focuses on helping parishes and schools practice good stewardship through better use of technology and lowering IT costs.
The work has also allowed him to become more involved in his own parish, from helping man the doors at the Parish School of Religion, serving on the parish council, rebooting Good Shepherd’s youth ministry program and even teaching himself to play the bass guitar as part of the parish’s praise and worship band.
“People tell me, ‘You’re always happy, you’re always in a good mood.’ At this point in life, happiness does not come from my surroundings,” Matt said. “It comes from within. I wake up every morning and say a simple prayer — ‘How can I glorify you today God? How can I build your kingdom?’ No longer am I working for myself. I am doing God’s work with the gifts and the talents that He gave me.”
I’m ‘too busy’
Matt’s work spans two-and-a-half decades, working as a manager for a large programming company. He later worked for Catholic Charities of St. Louis for 10 years in its IT department, which eventually outsourced to a data center. He continued work there, overseeing network operations. By 2014, he started a new venture with a former client, which grew into a successful, million-dollar business.
While there was success, Matt often found himself overworked and unhappy. He had little time to give to Good Shepherd, the parish he and his family moved to eight years ago. Twice, the director of religious education invited him to teach PSR, where his three children attended, and twice he turned down the offer.
“I told her that my new job was too busy,” he said.
The DRE later approached Matt with another request: Would you be willing to volunteer as a doorman for parents picking up their children from PSR? He agreed.
On his first day, Matt ran into then-pastor Father Chris Holtmann. The priest approached him and said, “You’re exactly who I was looking for. I want you to be on the parish council.”
Matt was in disbelief. “I looked behind me just to make sure he was not talking to someone else,” he recalled.
Father Holtmann, now pastor of St. John Paul II Parish in Affton, remembered the invitation. He realized it was out of the blue, and that he didn’t know Matt very well. But he saw it as a work of the Holy Spirit, comparing it to when the early apostles left behind what they had to follow Jesus. Matt ended up serving as parish council president for three years, helping guide parish decisions.
As a practice, Father Holtmann would lead the parish council in Lectio Divina, an ancient practice in which people immerse themselves into Scripture and develop a closer relationship with God by reflecting prayerfully on His words. He recalled how Matt quickly took to that and was willing to open up and share more his faith.
“He was really willing to risk himself when it comes to faith,” Father Holtmann said. “I just saw a deep trust in God, and a decision to take risks. And every one of them, when he stepped out, he’s experienced God.”
The Holy Spirit kept moving. Matt found himself attracted to the parish’s praise and worship band. “The music was so transformational,” he said. “It was like flipping the light switch on with coming to church.”
One night, he and his wife, Jennifer, went out to eat while their kids were at PSR. When they came back to church, Matt heard the group practicing. He decided he was going to join. But there was one problem — he had zero experience.
“I’ve never picked up an instrument, never had a music lesson,” he said. “I don’t know how to read music. And I’ve never sung.”
They welcomed him with open arms anyway. Former band member Jason Fowler offered to teach him how to play bass guitar. “In seven weeks, I was up there playing for Sunday Mass,” Matt said. “I still don’t know how to read the sheet music, but I know a lot more than I did before.”
Matt acknowledged that music styles at Mass can be a deeply personal choice for some people. But for those attracted to a more contemporary style, “it’s transformational for them. If it can speak to them and draw them closer to Christ, then our ministry is working.”
From dissatisfaction to prosperity
All while the Holy Spirit was moving Matt within his parish, there also was a shift happening with his work. The business he had started with his former client wasn’t working out. Matt was putting in long hours, and the company was moving in a direction that he wasn’t happy with. While attending a Christ Renews His Parish retreat, Matt asked God what he should do.
He got an answer.
“I thought, I’m just going to have to trust God and walk away,” he said. He told his business partner, “Three years ago, I put my trust in him, a man, but now I am going to put my trust in God.” Matt ended up taking with him several nonprofit customers that he had acquired and started 2911 Prosperity, which comes from the Book of Jeremiah.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
When the coronavirus outbreak came to the St. Louis area in March and public Masses were temporarily suspended, Matt reached out to his pastor, Father Ray Buehler, about a set-up to livestream Masses. “My sales pitch to priests has been: You know what? People can turn on EWTN, or they can turn on any diocese’s Mass and watch it. But it’s not their parish — it’s not the people that they know. That’s why it’s so important for a parish to livestream and stay connected with those people. As a pastor, you’re called to serve them.”
Word began spreading about Matt’s business, much like “a match in the grass,” he described. Since the start of the pandemic, he has helped 15 parishes and schools in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, setting up livestreaming capabilities for Masses, and schools for virtual learning.
Father Buehler said Matt exhibits a generosity to the Church, exhibited through his work as well as his service to the parish. “He knows what we’re trying to do and what our goal is,” Father Buehler said. “He rebooted our youth ministry program, and we don’t pay him a dime. He’s always installing or fixing things, and offering different options, trying to save us money and make it the best we can.”
When Father Buehler was named pastor at Good Shepherd a little over a year ago, Matt was the first person to contact him, offering his help to make the priest’s transition go smoothly.
“He has this deep passion for Christ and for the parish,” Father Buehler said. “He’s poured himself out so much to really help make things move forward. There’s a fire within him, and it’s beautiful to see. You get to see a glimpse of a deeper love for the Lord and see that gift passed on to others.”
“Everything we have is a gift from God,” Matt said. “Technology is used for so much wrong a lot of times, but it’s important to be able to flip that and use it for so much right, and to allow the people at home to connect with their faith community. All of this is to spread the Word, but to spread the joy and the happiness of being close to God.”