Extending the Reach of the Church

At St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church (SJTW) in Maple Grove, summer is typically a time to foster the faith of young parishioners and fulfill the parish’s mission of social justice and hospitality.

Last year, SJTW’s Director of Youth Formation and Youth Minister Barry Shay and Director of Social Justice Alex Blechle wanted to hire a summer intern to support these ministries. The internship would provide a valuable learning experience for someone contemplating lay ministry, and in turn, SJTW could expand its activities.

“The laity have always been — especially now — so important to our parishes and our Catholic communities. And just like the clergy and the religious, they deserve to be invested in to help them become future ministers,” says Alex.

But the parish lacked funding for this position.

Alex and Barry knew that most young people can’t afford to work for free, so they aspired to offer a just compensation for this internship.

Alex approached the Catholic Community Foundation of Minnesota (CCF) for financial assistance. CCF’s Vice President of Impact Meg Payne Nelson encouraged Alex to apply for a grant from the President’s Fund. Soon after, CCF notified the parish it would receive funding for an intern.

Inspiring a Young Leader

In the spring of 2020, as Sydney Dugas completed her theology degree at the College of Saint Benedict, she heard about the internship. It was a golden opportunity to gain practical ministry experience and help others.

While many of her peers had lost internships or job offers because of COVID-19, Sydney gratefully accepted the SJTW position so she could learn, contribute, and grow in her faith — while also earning a paycheck.

The pandemic upended the parish’s typical summer programs, but Sydney helped to create new activities with COVID-19 safety in mind. One highlight was a partnership with Minneapolis Recreation Development, Inc., a Minneapolis nonprofit that provides food to people experiencing homelessness. Sydney led a family event called The Sandwich Project for parishioners to make sandwiches in the SJTW parking lot to donate to the organization. On a hot July night, dozens of families showed up — socially-distanced, masked, and gloved — to make more than 3,500 sandwiches and 1,200 protein packs.

“We wanted a hands-on activity for families that was safe, but where we could still be present to each other,” Sydney says. “And we wanted to help those who are experiencing homelessness. Especially now, with COVID, they are even more isolated and really struggling.”

Continuing in Ministry

Sydney is thankful for her internship and the mentoring that Barry offered on authentic discipleship. “It was a great opportunity to see how I fit into parish life,” she says. She is currently serving with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Baltimore and hopes to continue in lay ministry.

Parishioners at St. Joseph the Worker made sandwiches for the homeless in the church parking lot.

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