I have been a Youth Leader in parishes for over 20 years and have served as a Youth Minister in my current Diocese for at least 10 of those years. Working with middle and high school youth is my passion and a calling to which I have tried to be faithful throughout my life. It is fulfilling and heartwarming in a way that I cannot even begin to explain. But when I am in the midst of it, my soul rejoices and I know I am doing what God wants for my life.
In the 1970s, I was encouraged to be active in my church by my mother: participating in youth group events, serving at the Altar, working at the church's Well Child Clinic on Saturdays, and attending youth rallies. As a Junior, I served on a 'Program Group on Youth" in my Diocese as a Youth Deanery Representative, where we planned all the diocesan-level youth events (retreats, summer programs, dances) and coordinated youth participation during the annual Diocesan Convention in Los Angeles. I was also doing Basic Catechism for youth at a Los Angeles Juvenile Detention facility.
It was an exciting, amazing time for me. I was filled with a sense of God's presence and was developing a strong personal relationship with my Savior. I was also struggling with discernment over what my purpose and future would look like. I discussed feelings about pursuing ordination with my priest and friends but I wasn't sure how that would fit in with my other interests and skills (like computer science, foreign languages, photography, music, etc.). But it was clear even as a high schooler, that my faith would always play a major role in my life and that God had a plan for me -- even if I did not really understand what it was yet.
And I am still on that faith journey. I have served in many capacities over the years, working as a youth leader in various Christian churches/denominations, serving in soup kitchens, being a camp counselor at a Christian Camp, and serving on any number of commissions and committees at both local and diocesan levels. But the one consistent thread in my life has been working with young people of all ages, hopefully helping them to experience God in a meaningful way.
The retreat gathered over 50 youth and adults together to take a journey of discovery, looking for Christ and how He works in our lives. We remove the 'masks' we usually wear during the day to reveal the beauty of our true selves -- the 'self' that Jesus knows and loves. We took time to Embrace the Joy of Smiling.
Experiencing God in a real, tangible way is a powerful thing. This weekend was fabulous and I got to share it with youth who are gifted, joyful, and amazing. It was truly a blessed event for everyone there and concluded with a worship service celebrated by one of our Bishops. My heart was soaring!
I share all of this just to say that for each of us, God has a plan for our lives. That plan will be revealed through prayer, listening, and discernment -- usually through the witness and insights from friends, family, and others that God puts in your path. And when you find your call, your passion, you have to go for it! You have to respond. I found mine. You can find yours.
Go Live your Passion!