Terri Pauco, middle, poses with fellow youth ministers at OCY’s youth training day in Toronto. Photo courtesy of Terri Pauco

St. Catharines takes up youth ministry momentum

By  Michael Romen, Youth Speak News
  • October 11, 2018

ST. CATHARINES, Ont. – It’s a fascinating time to be a young Catholic.

With the Youth Synod in Rome this month and the voices of young Catholics growing louder, more dioceses are listening. In the Diocese of St. Catharines, Terri Pauco has been paying close attention to those voices and working on this ministry for about a year. 

Pauco is the director of the diocesan Office of Family and Youth. Bishop Gerard Paul Bergie has presented the former religion and family life consultant for the Niagara Catholic District School Board with the opportunity to revitalize the diocesan youth ministry office in a way that also encompasses the family in all stages of life.

“I belong to one parish but I do go to Masses at several in my city. And when I look up there are young people all over,” said Pauco, who assumed her position last October. “I just wish I could go over and grab them and say, ‘Do you know? Have you heard? Are you on Facebook? Check us out, come be with us!’ ”

The Diocese of St. Catharines encompasses 46 Ontario parishes from Fort Erie to Caledonia and has two post-secondary institutions within its borders. Pauco said the young people of the diocese fill the pews and different ministry positions within the parishes. 

It is not uncommon to see young women veiling during Mass and young men serving as lectors. At the centre of this growing movement of young people in St. Catharines, Pauco wants to lay the foundations for leadership.

Her first job, she said, is to set up the logistics — searching for leaders, reaching out to pastors and convincing people that young adult ministry matters. Pauco knew there were youth ministries scattered around the diocese, but finding those people was a two-month ordeal. 

Over the summer, she initiated a summer-long program of young adult events as networking opportunities for the local groups. At the same time, the diocese also ran its Vacation Bible Retreats. 

Pauco saw momentum for young adult ministry was growing, so she partnered with Brock University’s Catholic student association to host a back-to-school barbecue at the diocese’s St. Catharines Catholic Centre.

Pauco’s vision is for leaders in different age groups to rise up and take the lead in the ministry.

“I wouldn’t be part of it. I would still be part-time and I would love for a full-time person,” she said. “I would love for those subgroups, the young adult ministry, to be autonomous and just have their own leadership group and know what they’re doing. For someone like me — and it doesn’t have to be me — we’d be like that contract person.”

(Romen, 24, is a third-year English and Classics student at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont.)

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