Blessed John Paul II once said, “We must understand that in order to love as Jesus does, we must offer to others the gift of ourselves. And it’s only in the giving of ourselves through charity, service and compassion that we can experience true joy.”
Twenty-five years ago, married with a baby in arms and with plans to be a stay-at-home mom, God called me to take a busload of St. Charles Borromeo teens on a Disney trip. After much prayer, I said, “Yes!”
God certainly knew what he was doing, because here I am, 25 years later, blessed to still be the youth minister at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Destrehan and still loving what I am doing: giving the gift of myself to provide a place for young people to learn about God, serve others, share their faith, grow spiritually, develop meaningful friendships and discover who they are in their relationship to Christ. My hope is that they will grow in love and faith and be made aware of what is needed in our Christian community.
There is a saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I truly believe it takes a community filled with loving and caring adults who are willing to give of their time and share their God-given gifts, talents and abilities to help raise our teens to Christian maturity.
We are truly blessed at St. Charles Borromeo, because youth work is a unique ministry that involves youth and adults working together in a way that blesses the lives of both.
My sons are living examples of this. God blessed me with a wonderful husband of 30 years, Ronald, who also works for our parish, and three faith-filled young men: Matthew, 27, the head athletic trainer at Assumption High in Napoleonville; Stephen, 24, a project manager for a construction company; and Jared, 21, a first-year seminarian at St. John Bosco Salesian Seminary in South Orange, N.J.
Mother Teresa says, “We cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.” I have always been called to service, which has definitely rubbed off onto my own boys and the young people I minister to. It is my hope that they experience service as Jesus served. This is what being a Catholic is all about! If Jesus were here today where would he be? What would he be doing?
We as Catholics are called to live out our Catholic faith. What better way than living as Jesus lived? Getting our hands dirty; getting out there and actually working with the poor and the underprivileged, just as Jesus worked with the blind, the poor and the sick; experiencing what God experienced. This is ministry in its purest form.
Aspiring to be ‘God’s hands’
My passion is definitely with the young orphans we have ministered to on our mission trips to Piedras Negras, Mexico, for the past eight years. This experience is one that our young people and adults will cherish forever. They experience God’s loving faith through the people they interact and build relationships with by being God’s hands in improving the lives of those who are less fortunate.
Over the years we have done so many small things with great love. I have served as the local manager of the National Catholic HEART (Helping Everyone Attain Repairs Today) Workcamp for 15 years, the National Catholic SHINE (Seeing Him In the Needy and Elderly) Workcamp, the Krewe of Ormond Mardi Gras Ball and Senior Wishes Christmas Party at Ormond Nursing Home, KOA (Knock Out Abortion), Sneak-On-Over to P.A.W. (Praise! Adore! Worship!), Adopt-an-Orphan, the March For Life in Washington, D.C., Soles for Christ, the Steubenville Youth Conference, Disney Night of Joy, the National Catholic Youth and Youth Ministers conferences, World Youth Days and countless retreats.
Thousands of teens have come and gone in my life. They have walked all over my heart and left footprints that have touched my heart and changed my life. “Work for the Lord! The pay is low but the rewards are out of this world!”
Though the rewards of working for the Lord are out of this world, I can get a taste of it in the here and now through the eyes of the young people I work with. It is their vision that is most important – their ability to see and know God in the world.
It is not about me at all! Working with our young people as a Catholic youth minister is not a job. It’s a way of life.
Rodrigue, the director of St. Charles Borromeo’s “Fountain of Youth” group since 1985, recently returned from her eighth mission trip to Mexico. She is the recipient of the 2011 Ray Mock Memorial Award, presented annually by the CYO/Youth and Young Adult Ministry Office to a man or woman who made a significant contribution to the youth of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.