The following is final reflection paper by one of our Youth Ministry Interns, James Holzhauer-Chuckas. Through God’s grace and the collaborative efforts of Dr. Sheila McGinn, Chair of Theology and Religious Studies at John Carroll University, we were able to create an amazing hands-on, experiential learning experience for college student with the desire to work in parish youth ministry. James received 3 college credits and learned some valuable lessons that he will never forget. It was a blessing to have him join our team for the semester. Read below to find out more about what he learned and experienced. Enjoy!
As part of being a major in theology/religious studies at John Carroll University, I spent the semester as a youth minister at St. Ambrose Parish. I found myself halfway through my first semester missing my parish life very dearly, so when I was presented with this opportunity I was more than ecstatic to accept. At first, when I started the internship, I was finding that things at St. Ambrose were very different from things at my home parish of St. Nicholas in Evanston, Chicago. I found things to be different but I didn’t find it to be a bad different. In terms of youth ministry, there were a lot of things that I wasn’t used to such as the the enthusiasm and positive energy of the teens, the amount of teens that participated in the events of the parish, and the number of adults that were always wanting to be present with the teens.
One of the things I enjoyed the most were the retreats. They were typically two days long rather than a day retreat which helped them to open up over time. I also enjoyed that every person, adult or youth, got a brown paper bag hung on a wall with their name on it for receiving letters throughout the retreat. It added a certain personal aspect to getting to know each other. As I took on a role in helping with Confirmation preparation, I found that the Faith in Action Teens (FIAT) really got these young 9th graders excited for getting involved in the parish. I was thoroughly impressed while facilitating Confirmation interviews how truly ready these young teens were to be confirmed. They didn’t just prove it in their saying “yes,” but in how they truly embraced their preparation for the sacrament itself.
During my second semester my life changed a little, I came to the decision to not return to John Carroll next year, which meant I would have to say goodbye to St. Ambrose. At my last FIAT Night, while saying farewell to the youth ministry, I looked around the room at a group of teens and adults who truly changed my life, even if for a brief five months. I looked at the Core Team, a team of adults that embraced my faith and became my friends. I looked around at the teens, the teens that showed me how amazing and exciting faith can be. I will admit, as I moved back to Chicago this past week, I thought about St. Ambrose a lot. I will miss everything and everyone who helped embrace me this semester. I have a lot to bring back to St. Nicholas, a lot of great ideas and opportunities to help embrace the youth of my parish. And it will all be because of the great things St. Ambrose did for me this semester.