Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
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Colbert’s youth minister moves on: ‘it’s been a joy’
by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the July 2, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)
Michaela Kearns (far right) with members of her youth group: from left are Emma and Clare Ellis, and Catherine and Maggie Samson. (IR photo courtesy of Michaela Kearns)
Michaela Kearns has served as fulltime youth minister at St. Joseph Parish in Colbert since 2004.
“I loved youth group when I was in high school in Moses Lake,” she said, “at Our Lady of Fatima Parish. Then, after I graduated, for one year I did Reach Youth Ministry, which is a traveling Catholic youth ministry team based in Cowiche, Wash. When I got to the end of that year, I said, ‘I’m never doing youth ministry again!’ It was so exhausting.”
In 2001, Kearns began studies at Gonzaga University as a Music Education major. “But I wasn’t really enthusiastic about that,” she said.”
She brought a depth of experience in youth ministry with her as she sought to discern her college major. She visited Gonzaga University’s Religious Studies Department, where she talked with Holy Names Sister Mary Garvin and became a Religious Studies major, earning a ministry certificate with a focus on youth ministry. She completed her degree in 2004.
Following graduation, the newly-minted university graduate began applying for youth ministry positions in parishes in Washington state, and St. Joseph Parish in Colbert knew a good thing when they saw it. “Youth ministry in parishes is so important,” said Kearns. “I feel like kids need to know that they are a true part of our church and that we are willing to invest in them and minister directly to them in the ways that they need to be ministered to. Having youth programs in the parishes is really important.”
Looking around the Diocese of Spokane, Kearns said that, “There is always more we can do for our youth. I understand that our diocese has been in a hard time for a while now, and yet in my heart, and I think in a lot of people’s hearts, we feel that there is always so much we could be doing for our youth!”
During her six years in youth ministry, Kearns has heard different kinds of feedback from parents of teens. “I’ve gotten a mix,” she said. “Some parents want us to do more fun stuff. Some want kids to get more apologetics and doctrinal stuff. I think it’s important to have a mix. You can do the fun and social (events) while also showing them what our faith about, and (how) it’s centered on Christ and the Eucharist. You can have it all.”
Father Edgar Borchardt, current pastor of St. Joseph Parish, said: “We are so glad to have had Michaela with us and for the length of time she has been in youth ministry. She has a natural affability not only with our young people but with parents and parishioners in general. Her love of our faith flows so effortlessly into her love of those she serves, it is inspirational to watch. Michaela truly has been a Godsend. I hope that she will continue to share her gifts and grow in her faith.”
Father Michael Kwiatkowski was pastor of St. Joseph Parish for all but Kearns’s last year as youth minister there. “Truly gifted youth ministers are hard to find,” he said. “I recall that when we interviewed Michaela we all know we had found the person we were looking for. She brought a willingness to learn and a sincere faith in Christ that she wanted to share with the teenagers. Under her leadership the youth program flourished. I think that many of the teens came to know Christ more deeply and to appreciate their Catholic faith more fully. While it is sad that Michaela is leaving St. Joseph, I am confident that Christ is leading her to continued service to God’s People.”
The parish held a thank-you and going away event for Kearns on Sunday, June 13. She plans to return to Moses Lake to spend some time with her parents and ponder her future. “I just want to take some time to pray and discern where God wants me to go next,” she said.
Taking Kearns’s place as youth minister in the Colbert parish is parishioner Lauren Grave-reaux who, with her husband and three children, moved to Colbert from Connecticut last year. Graveraux’s oldest daughter is in the junior high youth group.
“It’s been a joy to work for this awesome parish and to work in this diocese,” said Kearns. “It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s been great getting to know all the youth and the other youth ministers and people of the diocese. It’s been a wonderful experience, and I have felt blessed that this parish was willing and able to hire me fulltime for youth ministry, which is what I wanted to do.”