Growing as Christians

April 14-20
VOL 124 NO. 14
Growing as Christians
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Youth ministers of the diocese make a difference

Since the late 1970s, the Catholic Church has seen the growth of parish youth ministries throughout the country. This ministry with adolescents has had a positive impact on the lives of young people. Adolescents who participate in parish youth ministry programs identify faith formation and moral development as a significant contribution to their life. They have a profound sense of commitment to the Catholic Church, they attend Sunday Mass regularly and show continued growth while they remain involved in youth programs. These are positive signs that the church’s investment in ministry with adolescents is making a difference in their lives and in the life of the church.

The Syracuse Diocese has been blessed with youth ministers who are making a difference.

One such person is Heidi Buda. She has been a youth minister for 18 years. A native of Germany, she got her start in youth ministry when she lived in Germany with her three-year-old daughter and her American husband who was stationed there by the military. Buda taught a confirmation class at the military chapel and then proceeded to form a youth group. “I really loved it,” said Buda. “I like to work with young people. They’re honest and interesting.” After taking faith formation classes, she became a youth minister.

Ten years ago, she and her family moved to the U.S. where they became members of St. Mary, Star of Sea Church in Mexico. Buda formed a youth group there.

In 2002, she traveled with the youth group to Toronto to participate in the World Youth Day gathering.

Buda became the youth minister at Immaculate Conception Church in Fulton in 2003. This summer, the group plans to attend World Youth Day in Germany.

Buda makes it a point to talk with the youth about their traveling experiences after each outing. “I like to share with them how I grew up in a foreign country,” said Buda. “I really feel that I have something to give. I can teach them something about my heritage. It makes me happy.”

Buda feels that God played a part in her becoming a youth minister. “God inspired me to take this journey,” said Buda. “I like to share my faith with young people. Working as a youth minister has given me my purpose in life.”

Joseph Tiesi has been a youth minister at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Binghamton since 1990. As a young adult, Tiesi was active in his youth group at St. Cyril’s Parish in Binghamton. He was influenced by the social interactions he had with the Franciscans at his parish. The youth group often played pool with the Franciscans after confirmation classes. “Their conversations made a big impact on me,” said Tiesi.

As a newly-married young man, Tiesi worked as a substitute teacher and was unsure of what vocation he wanted to pursue. One day, he and his wife were sitting in St. Catherine of Siena Church, praying before the Mass when his wife read in the church bulletin that Father Laurence Lord was searching for a youth minister. Tiesi’s wife encouraged him to apply for the position, and as a result, he is now the youth minister to 600 youths in his parish.

Tiesi said that one of his most important goals as a youth minister is to give young people a sense that they are valued and are part of a big family. “I hope that when they look back on their lives, they understand that they belong and that their faith experiences are a common thread that ties them all together,” said Tiesi. “I enjoy watching these young people grow and take on the challenges of their own faith experiences.”

Dick Vetere is a youth minister at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in New Hartford. He recently marked his 10th year of service. His journey to become a youth minister began when he was completing a college internship in the guidance department of St. Frances de Sales High School in Utica.

Vetere was then hired to be the executive director of the Catholic Youth Organization in the Utica/Rome area. From 1998 through 2003, he served as director of The Joseph Center and associate director of Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Syracuse.

As a youth minister, Vetere feels that his primary goal is to be available to all the youth in his parish. He likes helping young people develop a relationship with God and the church. He also enjoys helping them develop solid values. Vetere engages the young people in offering service to others. “I find that giving service is a great tool in their growth and development,” explained Vetere. “Faith is the most important dimension of their lives.”

Through his service as a youth minister, Vetere has come to appreciate and clarify his own beliefs and values. “My involvement with youth keeps me more current in my thinking,” said Vetere. “I’ve worked with generations of young people, and I’ve seen how their experiences and challenges have changed.”

Cynthia Heath has served as youth minister at St. Joseph’s Church in Camillus for the last eight years. Heath’s career began when Father John Finnegan approached her and asked if she would take over the youth ministry program. “He knew of my love of youth and my strong faith,” said Heath. “It was a special calling.”

Heath enjoys working with the youth. She takes pleasure in witnessing her confirmation students grow in their faith and spirituality. She also notices that every summer, when St. Joseph’s Church holds an Alumni Youth Mass, college students from the parish come back and want to get involved with the parish again. “It gives me such a warm feeling,” Heath said.

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