BY JOE TOMASO
DIRECTOR OF YOUTH AND YOUNG ADULT MINISTRY
Dear Saint Anne Community,
This is a difficult letter for me to write. It is bittersweet to announce that I will be stepping down from the position of Director ofYouth and Young Adult Ministry here at Saint Anne’s at the end of July 2021. Goodbyes are always hard, but especially whenthey feel sudden.
I expected to be here a lot longer, and certainly was not seeking a new position. But a door opened before me when I wasapproached by another parish to serve in a different area of ministry, and after a very difficult discernment, I feel that it is where Iam to go. What made this discernment most difficult was you, the people I have gotten to know over this past year. FromFr. Bernie to our adult volunteers to parents and teens… you have all been such a gift, and a joy minister alongside.I do not like the idea of leaving after only a year, that certainly was not my intent. Sometimes unexpected things happen that takeus down a different road we did not expect. That is one of the many lessons I learned during the pandemic, but also in my life ingeneral. What’s more, our faith is full of stories of unexpected turns, unlikely candidates for discipleship, and unimaginable journeys.
I think of Abraham and Sarah who, in their old age, had a child against all odds, a child who would become the descendent of God’s chosen people. No one would have expected that. Or the story of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, a man set on glory, honor,chivalry, and popularity, who became one of the great spiritual powerhouses of our faith…and that all started when he was struckin the leg by a cannonball.
Unexpected turns happen. And this is one of those moments for myself and for youth ministry here at Saint Anne. But ourtradition tells us that the unexpected can also be full of hope, promise, and new life.I have been reflecting on how God has been present and active over this past year here, and want to share with you a few places Ihave found God at Saint Anne:
- A group of high school seniors and adult leaders stuck together for a whole year to support youth ministry and to do everything theycould to make our Kairos retreat happen. While they were met with many disappointments and challenges, they rose to the occasion, giving witness talks to inspire our Confirmation classes and leading one another spiritually through our leadership meetings.
- A group of about 30 catechists stepped up in the middle of the pandemic to answer the call to lead our youth. They learned new technology, and in the face of many challenges, creatively and passionately formed a space for our teens to find community in the journey to Confirmation.
- We found new ways to reach one another through daily reflections on the parish website and live streaming Confirmation and two youth Masses.
- We held 13 Confirmation Masses over this past year, thanks to the help of staff and volunteers who gave of their time to usher, check-in, disinfect, coordinate the Mass, and more.
- In addition to all of this, many of our catechists, teens, and parents provided crucial feedback and reflections on our Confirmation program in order to help us adjust next fall to changing times that require us to think and act differently in order for the Gospel to reach our teens. This has resulted in key adjustments that will begin next year thanks to the input of caring members of the youth ministry community.
These are just some examples of where I have found God this past year, and of how the people of Saint Anne supported YouthMinistry with resilience and passion; truly with the heart of Jesus for our teens and their families.
In a year of uncertainty, there has been much fruit. I am simply honored to have been a part of this year with you, as challengingas it has been. So, as I draw nearer to saying goodbye, I also want to say thank you. The vibrancy of our volunteers and thesupport from parish leadership gives me so much hope for what the future will bring to youth ministry here. The energy andhunger for more in life from our teens also serves as a beacon of hope. You have given me the gift of being a part of this. Andwhile my time here has been short, I believe it was with purpose. I learned so much, and was able to do my part to carry usthrough this difficult time. Please be assured of my prayers, Saint Anne’s. May God continue to bless you for your zeal for theGood News and desire to make this world look more like God’s Kingdom.
Your Companion in Christ,
Joe Tomaso, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry