From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Youth Ministry inaugurates new award; Msgr. Donnelly is first recipient

by Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register

(From the June 15, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)

The Youth Ministry office of the Parish Services Office initiated a new award this year during the annual diocesan Youth Celebration.

The St. John Bosco Award will be bestowed annually on individuals who have given “outstanding service to youth over a long period of time.”

The first recipient of the new award is Msgr. John Donnelly, pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Spokane.

In the citation, Msgr. Donnelly was congratulated for sharing “his special gifts with youth of the diocese for over 40 years.”

In a recent interview, Msgr. Donnelly said that the award was a complete surprise. He came to the Youth Celebration thinking he was only there to concelebrate Mass with Bishop Skylstad at the event.

His involvement with youth ministry extends back through his years of pastoral work in parishes throughout the diocese. He reminisced about that aspect of his ministry, laughing at the memories.

He called one trip a “spectacular stupidity.” He was taking the youth group from Deer Park skiing at Schweitzer and borrowed the ancient bus from Mater Cleri seminary.

“I’d never driven a bus before,” he said, “and half-way up it lost second gear. A parishioner come up to me afterward and say, ‘next time you want to drive these kids somewhere ask me and I’ll drive it.’”

An annual event at St. Anthony Parish has been the youth group’s year-end camping trip. The monsignor always accompanies them on the trip, which is a focus point for a number of group activities during the year. The fund-raising activities help make it well-attended, he said.

The parish’s youth minister is Frank DeCaro, “who does a great job,” the monsignor said. “He has the patience of Job with them. I can’t believe the patience he’s got.”

The results speak for themselves. “We have 30-40 kids every other week from a parish with only about 350 families in it,” said Msgr. Donnelly.

The group has camped in a number of spots in the Northwest — the Oregon Coast this year; Wenatchee; and Canada, among others.

Part of the secret to youth ministry, he believes, is utilizing the teens’ own ideas.

“The general principal that I’ve found is that you don’t really have to set a curriculum for teenagers. You just ask them what kind of questions they’d like answered. And they’ll give you a curriculum probably better than the one you’d drum up.”

Msgr. Donnelly retires from active ministry this month after more than 10 years at St. Anthony.

Helping him move to his new residence? The youth group.

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