High School Youth Ministry Leader
T.J. heads up our high school youth group called StBYG (St. Boniface Youth Group). He leads bi-monthly meetings focused on connecting the “Life and Faith” of our high school youth by addressing life’s joys and struggles, sin, and questions of our young people, and discussing how we should bring God into our daily lives. He also spearheads service projects and social events that get youth together in a fun, safe, and accepting environment with prayer and God at its core.
I am proud to be in my 7th year as the St. Boniface High School Youth Ministry Leader. It is a part time position with most of my time spent planning and leading our bi-monthly Life and Faith discussion meetings, and setting up and leading additional social events and service projects. I am blessed with a wonderful church office staff that is always helping me strengthen my ministry and help keep it running smoothly in many different ways. In addition, I greatly appreciate both Kayla Engebrecht, and Brian Adeniyi-Williams are volunteer leaders who help at StBYG meetings and events as often as they can.
What impact does your work have, or that you wish it to have on the parish?
I choose to work with high school aged youth because it is such a difficult and impressionable time in life. Youth today are heavily judged from every angle of life, and too often they get beat down and feel like they aren’t good enough, smart enough, or talented enough. All that negative feeling is too often reflected in the daily choices they make, making choosing sinful ways easier; then they feel bad about their choices, and that can be too much to handle causing them to spin out of control. At StBYG we try to bring youth in by talking about God’s love, mercy, and grace. Once they know they are loved just as they are right now, then we can talk to them about God’s compassion; but that compassion isn’t acceptance. God loves them even with their sin, but that doesn’t mean he accepts their sin and is OK with it. He loves them so much he wants better for them. That is where the Life and Faith connection we talk about in our meetings comes in. If we can help them find ways to connect God into their every day lives, then he will always be on their minds. If he is always on their minds, then there is a better chance they will make life decisions that keep them on his path.
Give an example of something associated with your work that was a feel good moment.
I have been blessed over the years to see first hand some amazing and powerful moments when youth and adults have deeply connected with Christ; feeling his love, compassion, mercy and grace they have had faith transformations! I think I could share stories all day about things like a “tough guy” telling me at his 1st StBYG meeting that he was only there because his parents made him come and there was free pizza. Half way through the year he was the one texting me every week asking when the next meeting or event was. A girl wasn’t even Catholic and came to her first meeting as a guest of a friend. By the middle of the year she was choosing to come on her own even if her friend couldn’t make the meeting that week. Just last week there was a group of 10 kids who stayed after our meeting for almost an hour because they wanted to keep talking about the meeting topic. But, my favorite story is a guy who came to StBYG only because the girl he was dating was a regular and she invited him to come. He was a member of St. Boniface, but not religious. I would later find out that he considered himself agnostic, and on the edge of atheist. Through many meetings, deep talks after meetings, deep talks with his girlfriend, and a breakthrough moment at Catholic Youth Camp, he opened his heart to God. He and his girlfriend even chose to lead youth Faith Formation classes at the Catholic Church near the college they were attending. Even after they broke up he still chose to lead a class.
What activities or volunteerism at St. Boniface have inspired you and why?
This is an easy one for me… The Christ Renews His Parish retreat. Fr. Vince actually approached me 3 different times over a few years about being the youth leader. I respectfully passed the first 2 times and told him I had my own sins and issues to figure out. It was through the CRHP retreat, and the amazing group of guys that I met, that made me realize that even with my imperfections, and with no formal youth ministry or theology training, this was the path God wanted me to follow.
What are your favorite hobbies or activities away from church?
I am a professional photographer full time. I have a wife Hayli, and 2 boys Boston(7) and Brookson(3). I enjoy spending time with my family at the lake boating, water skiing, jet skiing, and fishing. I love coaching Boston’s U8 soccer, and also coach WHS Boys Varsity soccer. Hayli and I are foodies and enjoy local mom and pop type restaurants, and we really enjoy food trucks! I like playing various card games, especially with my Dad, Mom, and brothers because it can get competitive and heated. I would much rather be hanging out with family, friends, or meeting new people rather than hanging out at home alone.