Leading youth to maturity

Service award
bestowed on youth  minister

By Claudia Mathis
SUN staff writer

BALDWINSVILLE — Jim Garvey, youth minister at St. Augustine’s Church was honored when Sister Ellen Lindsley, CSJ, presented him with the Sister Pat Geary Service Award on Sunday, March 22 at the 11 a.m. Mass. “It was a fairly humbling experience,” said Garvey. “I believe that there are two to three dozen people who are more deserving of the award than I am.”
For the last nine years, the award has been given to a St. Augustine’s parishioner in memory of Sister Patricia Geary, CSJ, who ministered at the church from 1990 to 1998, when she died of cancer. Nominated by fellow parishioners, the candidate who receives the award is chosen because his/her life exemplifies Sister Patricia’s ministry.
“Sister Patricia is remembered as a woman of great faith, gifted with wisdom and insight and as an advocate for the rights of all,” said parish secretary Lin Kilts. She was a strong advocate for social justice, believing in the dignity of all people.
When Sister Patricia arrived at the parish in 1990, she quickly became a catalyst for growth and change. She revised the RCIA program, restructured the pastoral council and took on the responsibility for the parish’s fund-raising program as the parish’s pastoral center was being constructed. The gathering room in the new pastoral center was named in her honor. 
Nomination forms for the award are usually distributed to parishioners in late December, enabling them to consider which people are deserving of the award. The completed forms are then examined and prayed over by the Sister Pat Geary Committee.
Kilts shared some of the comments written about Garvey, indicating that Garvey exemplified the life that Sister Patricia  lived: “Jim is like a magnet to youth. He has a special way of looking at major issues through the youth’s eyes and a gift of sorting them all out with them. He has a talent for finding ways in which the youth can share their gifts and talents. He exemplifies how to live the values of Jesus by working non-stop behind the scenes to make sure the youth enjoy and benefit from the many programs that are offered throughout the year. Jim makes all youth feel accepted and respected among their peers and is always conscious about not excluding youth from an event because of their inability to pay. He is always ready to offer his support to those he encounters.”  
The recipient of the award receives $1,000 in honor of Sister Patricia to donate to an organization or charity of his/her choice. The money is given to the winner on a weekend near the feast of St. Joseph. Garvey has chosen to contribute to Project Connect, a network of many churches and their outreaches that provide programs of vocational discernment for college-age adults. Several members of the youth group have participated in the venture over the years.  
Garvey has served as youth minister at St. Augustine’s for the last 14 years. “I became involved in the youth ministry because my wife signed me up after she read a request in the weekly bulletin asking for help,” said Garvey. “I have enjoyed every minute of the ministry and feel that it is a privilege to be involved with these teens.” He especially enjoys watching the teens grow from middle-schoolers into adulthood and said he finds it rewarding to see the youth participate week after week and year after year while encouraging their friends to join the youth group. 
Garvey also serves as lector and Eucharistic minister at St. Augustine’s. “I do it because I want to be a good role model for the kids,” said Garvey. “The kids get involved in things like the confirmation program because of it.” 
The youth group of between 30 to 60 teens meets every week. They pray, talk and listen at the meetings. They enjoy outings or complete service projects. The many service projects include helping to reconstruct homes damaged by hurricane Katrina in Gulfport, Miss. in 2005, helping local residents clean up after winter storms, working in St. Lucy’s kitchen in Syracuse and collecting books to be sent to South Africa. “We have also sold bottles of water to help build a well in Africa,” added Garvey. “None of our service projects are connected with our confirmation process, so everything we do is a result of these kids volunteering their time and energy for the greater good.”
The teens have traveled several times to St. Augustine’s Church in the Bronx to experience the cultural differences between the two parishes. They completed service projects and did some sightseeing. “My kids got to experience their people and worship,” said Garvey. “It’s neat to expose them to that. We have a good relationship with them and we’ll go again in August. 
By far, the teens’ favorite event is the three-day retreat held every June at Vanderkamp in Cleveland, N.Y. The weekend provides a chance for the seniors to participate in their last function with the youth group. “Many of these young people have been involved in the group since seventh grade and it makes me feel good that this means so much to them,” said Garvey.
“As far as the award itself goes,” said Garvey, “it is special because it is presented by a committee made up entirely of parishioners, none of whom currently have any teens in the group. The recognition makes me feel that we are on the right track here at St. Augustine’s.”

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