Fr. Frank Portelli takes up challenge as new head of Toronto's youth office Photo by Vanessa Santilli

Fr. Frank Portelli takes up challenge as new head of Toronto's youth office

  • November 30, 2011

TORONTO - Fr. Frank Portelli is embracing a new challenge in his priestly life, taking the reins as the director of the archdiocese of Toronto’s Office of Catholic Youth.

“Successful youth ministry is when you’ve engaged the young person,” Portelli told The Catholic Register. “Not imposing something but finding out what their desire is, what their questions are and trying to meet that need.”

Portelli was assigned as director of the OCY Nov. 1 and is currently in a transition period as he works between his new post and as associate pastor at St. Luke’s parish in Thornhill. As of January, he will be able to focus his efforts solely on his new ministry. Replacing Christian Elia, his posting is for three years.

Born and raised in Toronto in a family of seven children, Portelli was ordained in 2009. He went to Bishop Allen Catholic Secondary School and completed his undergraduate degree in economics and math at the University of Toronto. Following two and a half years with the federal government working in bankruptcy and insolvency, Portelli entered St. Augustine’s Seminary.

Assigned to Merciful Redeemer parish in Mississauga for his internship, the parish had an active youth ministry including both EDGE and LifeTeen programs, he said. From there, Portelli took on the role of associate pastor at St. Luke’s parish, where the parish started its own EDGE program.

Portelli, 35, is looking forward to his new assignment. “But it’s going to be challenging,” he said.

“The archdiocese is so big — population and geographically — so I think it’s hard to make every parish and every school aware of the youth office’s presence.”

Portelli said he hopes to study some other youth offices in Canada, the United States and around the world to see what methods have been effective. He said he’ll also have to adjust to working in an office setting again which will offer less interaction with people than he’s grown accustomed to at his parish.

“I just met with some young adults and they feel there’s nothing for them,” he said. He hopes to rectify this as he tries to come up with a vision that the diocesan youth office should focus on.

“The parishes are geared sacramentally towards baptism, first communion and confession and then confirmation.” And then, until marriage, there’s this gap, he said.

As a Church, we need to be focused on people that are on the margins — teenagers included, he said.

“Teenagers have identity issues when they’re going through this tumultuous time,” said Portelli.

“And I want to lead them, to guide them and to answer the questions that they have about life, God, purpose and meaning.”

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