It was 12 years ago today, on Tuesday, December 10, 2002 that I replaced Father (now Bishop) Mark Hagemoen as the Director of the Office of Youth Ministry for the Archdiocese of Vancouver. I was excitable, passionate, and eager to learn. And I had no idea what the Lord had in store for me.
As an aside, I can’t really remember why I started on a Tuesday and not the Monday prior. Maybe it had to do with my former employer PricewaterhouseCoopers. Or perhaps it had to do with staffing issues at the Archdiocese. But I digress.
I inherited a staff consisting of Gerard Garcia, Pat Gillespie, Analyn Perez, and Rob Mascitti. We quickly hit it off, as I knew all of them reasonably well – and in Gerard’s case, very well – through my involvement with the archdiocese while I was serving as the parish youth ministry coordinator at St. Paul Parish in Richmond.
What impressed me right away was the dedication and commitment that the staff had to their work and their ministry. It truly was a dream job to be paid to do what I loved: youth ministry!
Over the past 12 years, I’ve been fortunate to work alongside some awesome people in the office. Rob and Pat are still serving the Archdiocese while Analyn has moved onto exciting project management with Children’s Hospital. Krissy (Chua) Litam and Sharon Goh have filled in at times in administrative roles, while Faye McCreedy (hired 2006) and Erwin Fung (hired 2013) round out our current staff. And of course, Gerard is still there after all these years…I guess we’ll never get rid of each other haha.
I’ll put our staff and our work up against any youth and young adult ministry office in North America. This is not meant to sound cocky or boastful; I’m just very confident in what we do and in the people we are blessed to work with. People like youth ministry and young adult ministry coordinators and leaders, teens, priests, religious, parents, principals and teachers, campus ministers, diocesan leaders and fellow diocesan employees.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my friend (haha) Archbishop J. Michael Miller here. A large part of our success and our desire to serve is because of his leadership and support. Despite my humourous (and pathetic) attempts to earn his friendship, he is indeed a wonderful advocate for not only me, but for our office and for the young Church.
Now this doesn’t mean we’re perfect. Far from it, in fact…we have a lot that we haven’t accomplished. And just like any family, we have our minor disagreements and differences. But we remain loyal to each other and faithful to our mission of providing spiritual and professional formation for those who serve youth and young adults.
Along with wonderful people from this archdiocese, I’ve also met dozens of awesome people from beyond. I love opportunities to network and share the ups and downs of ministry with my peers from across Canada and the United States whether they be fellow diocesan directors, youth ministers, young adult ministers, or young people.
This job has taken me as far away as Johannesburg, South Africa. It’s taken me to numerous provinces and states. And it’s given me a venue to learn about my faith, hone my communication skills, and become a better leader.
When you look at who we’ve met and been able to bring up to our archdiocese, it’s a virtual who’s who of Catholic youth ministry, young adult ministry, and music ministry. People like Matt Maher. Steve Angrisano. Mike Patin. APeX Ministries. The Jacob and Matthew Band. Cooper Ray. Josh Blakesley. Chris Padgett. Joia Farmer. Jackie Francois. Mark Hart. Jesse Manibusan. The list goes on and on.
Some of these people have become my closest friends. They’ve mentored me, checked in on me, and opened their homes to me. And they’ve undoubtedly added to my penchant for name-dropping.
Just last week at the National Conference on Catholic Youth Ministry, Jesse Manibusan was on stage as part of the Friday night Youth Ministry Extravaganza. In thanking the 2,000 attendees for their work in youth ministry, he talked about how all of them were “heroes” to him. And lo and behold, he mentioned my name as one of these so-called “heroes”.
I was surprised, flattered, and humbled. And no, I didn’t pay him to say that.
The quintessential name-dropper (me) actually got name-dropped. It meant a lot to me given that I consider Jesse a true hero in ministry and an inspiration as a minister and friend. And he nailed my last name to boot!
Moreover, I fully recognized that it was a reflection on the good work that our archdiocese is doing as a whole. Indeed, we are blessed with a lot of things: strong leadership development. A good social media presence. Priest support. Strong leadership in the parishes. Hungry teens (spiritually not physically).
At the risk of this sounding like an awards-acceptance speech, I am most grateful to Gail for supporting me, forgiving me, and loving me unconditionally. And to Sean, Jake, and Kayla who inspire and humour me with all the time with their child-like faith.
I reflect back to the job interview back in November 2002. The panel asked me how long I expected to be in the role if I got the job.
I remember answering, “I’ll give it 7 or 8 years…until the year 2010. We’ll see if we’re still moving forward at that point.”
It’s funny how God works. 2010 was an incredibly exciting year for me and our office. The JP 2 Centre opened wide its doors to serve as a “Catholic Hospitality Centre” for the 2010 Winter Olympics. The volunteers primarily came from the young adult community. And just a few months later, in the summer of 2010, our office officially added young adult ministry to its title and mandate.
I’d say that’s moving forward.
The year 2015 presents us with another big change: we’ll be moving from 150 Robson to 4885 St. John Paul II Way (at the corner of 33rd and Willow). The new location and new surroundings will present some unique blessings and challenges. I’m looking forward to leading our office through the transition period.
While I refer to my job as a “dream job” it truly doesn’t feel like a job at all. I love coming to work every day. I love the challenge and the responsibility that comes with directing an archdiocesan office.
Most of all, I get excited to think that we are helping youth and young adults encounter Christ to live out lives of personal and communal holiness.
I thank God everyday for this opportunity and this responsibility. May I never take it for granted.
I know I won’t be in this position forever. Someday, someone much smarter and more capable will come along. And If I ever get complacent or feel that the office is not moving forward, then I’ll know it’s my time to move on.
But I’m not there yet.
There is still a lot of work to do.