Jan. 13-19, 2005
Off to Washington, D.C.
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Sister Eileen McCann, CSJ, knew from the beginning that she wanted to work with youth. She feels young people possess a strong spirituality and the ability to cut through to what is important. They have deepened their relationship with God, and in turn, have deepened hers as well. “I find it rewarding,” said Sister Eileen. “I can’t imagine doing any other ministry in the church.”
She recently accepted the Coordinator for Youth and Young Adult Ministries position at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C. after serving 12 years as Director of Youth Ministry in the Syracuse Diocese. Sister Eileen is a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet and she attributes the leadership of her community, among other things, to her successful service. “The leadership of my community has been wonderful throughout the whole process,” said Sister Eileen. “Being a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph has given me the opportunity to use my gifts and leaves me free to go where the Spirit leads me.”
Sister Eileen also feels that her strong faith has figured prominently in the success of her ministry. “It’s part of my everyday life,” said Sister Eileen. “I try to infuse my relationship with God and the church into my conversations and programs with young people and with the people responsible for youth ministry.” Sister Eileen enjoyed working with Bishop James Moynihan. Her vocation was greatly influenced by his way of thinking. He advised her, “We need to look at it as a privilege to serve the people of God.” She also enjoyed working with the youth ministers of the diocese. “The youth ministers of the diocese are wonderful,” said Sister Eileen. “Most are volunteers, and they minister with an energy and a love that is wonderful.”
Sister Eileen’s career began with teaching junior high school math at various schools in the Dioceses of Syracuse and Albany. When she taught at Blessed Sacrament School in Syracuse, she was named CYO Moderator. Next, she held the position of co-director of the Utica Faith Center for one year. After that, she served six years as director of Catholic Youth Services through Catholic Charities in Utica. She then moved on to Albany, where she served for five years as Diocesan Director of Youth Ministry. Then she assumed her present position of Director of Youth Ministry in the Syracuse Diocese. She has served on the board of directors of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry for the past three years. “That’s kept me at the big picture of youth ministry and allowed me not to become complacent,” said Sister Eileen.
As Sister Eileen reminisced about her life, three memorable experiences came to mind. One of the events was when she attended World Youth Day at Denver in 1993. World Youth Day is a gathering of Catholic young adults and is held approximately every two years. The young people participate in two significant liturgies with the Holy Father: a pilgrimage of the cross and an all-night vigil of music and prayer that concludes with a papal Mass on Sunday morning. Sister Eileen was excited about being in the presence of the pope, and in turn witnessing the young adults’ excitement. Sister Eileen fondly remembers facilitating the annual Christian Leadership Institute event. The meetings are held to help youth develop their leadership skills. She was impressed when she witnessed the difference in the behavior of the youth after attending the meetings. “It’s amazing for me to see them use these leadership skills,” said Sister Eileen.
In September of 2003, Sister Eileen traveled to Rwanda, Africa to participate in a cultural witness program offered by Catholic Relief Services. After witnessing the Catholic Relief Services in action, she shared the experience with the present generation of teens. Sister Eileen’s trip to Africa led her to reexamine her vow of poverty. She asked herself what it meant for her to live in her country when the people in Africa have so little. She was challenged by their way of living. “It was incredible to be in that country to see the people who had suffered through genocide and to see their faith and commitment that this would never happen again,” said Sister Eileen.
From New York to Africa to Washington, D.C., Sister Eileen’s life as a woman religious has been filled with the support of her community, opportunities to see the world and opportunities to share her love of God and her church.