Youth minister leads teens closer to Christ

By  Christine Thibeault, Youth Speak News
  • October 19, 2007
DARTMOUTH, N.S. - At a time when teen violence throughout the Halifax region consistently makes the headlines, one man works hard to bring teens closer to Christ, one at a time.

Dave Riel, 40, is the Life Teen youth minister in Dartmouth. Aside from Life Teen, Riel also co-ordinates The Edge at both Blessed Pope John XXIII and St. Vincent de Paul parishes, a youth program similar to Life Teen for Grades 6-8, and a weekly teen group called St. Vinnie’s Posse.

“I can’t sum up my goal better than the Life Teen corporation already has: ‛Leading Teens Closer to Christ,’ ” said Riel, who’s been a youth minister for four years.

Riel was formerly a health care worker in southern Ontario where he grew up, when the call to youth ministry came to him.

“I realized in my old life I was being called to do more than what I was doing ... and youth ministry came up as an option.”

Starting as a catechist for a Confirmation class, Riel grew tired of being unable to answer the questions that the youth were asking him. He then decided to dig deeper into his Catholic faith and better discern what it was that God was calling him to do.

Prior to that stage in his life, he said, “I spent time during university looking for something, but I had everything I needed, I just didn’t know it.”

Riel moved here with his wife and children one year ago, from Ingersoll, Ont., not looking for a job, and not knowing what was ahead.

“There was a good indication that Someone was in control. It was awesome.”

“He’s doing really good for a guy who just got here,” said Heather Martell, 18, a Life Teen graduate training to be Life Teen leader.

“He’s always been there for me when I needed him,” said Martell. Colin Galloway, 18, agreed, adding that Riel had helped him to get through a difficult period in his life.

Riel works with 14 leaders to keep Life Teen going in the area, but being a youth minister isn’t always easy. The teens “are constantly challenging the adults to live the truth we’re speaking, (but) it’s nice to go back to the basics (by using) the Catechism (of the Catholic Church).

“Many people have a preconceived idea of what Life Teen is,” he said. “But once they get to know the ministry, they’ll see how faithful it is to the magisterium and how much it can do for a parish.”

Riel summarized the passion for the youth and his work in five simple words: “It’s all about the teens.”

(Thibeault is a philosophy student at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.)

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