Ashley DeMarco has her work cut out for her.
The first day of August marked DeMarco’s first day as the new faith-formation and youth-ministry coordinator for St. Felix Parish in Clifton Springs, St. Francis Parish in Phelps and St. Dominic Parish in Shortsville, which became a cluster at the end of June. As if the task of ministering to a newly formed cluster was not daunting enough, this position also is DeMarco’s first full-time ministry position.
None of this seems to intimidate her, however.
“I know I don’t have any experience, but I just have this confidence that I can handle it,” DeMarco told the Catholic Courier.
DeMarco has long been interested in ministry and theology, and over the years she said she’s gravitated toward opportunities to serve others.
The second oldest of seven children, DeMarco grew up in Fairport, where her family attended St. John of Rochester Parish. DeMarco attended St. John of Rochester School until she was in sixth grade, when her family moved from Fairport. DeMarco moved back to the Fairport area two years ago, she said.
Even before she graduated from high school, DeMarco knew she eventually wanted to find a job that would allow her to utilize her passion for both theology and ministry.
“I’ve always loved theology, and I’ve known since high school that I wanted to major in theology. I have a desire to learn, and I’ve always wanted to do ministry,” she said.
DeMarco decided to attend Christendom College, a Roman Catholic liberal-arts college in Front Royal, Va. She studied theology but did not abandon her desire to serve others, and participated in a mission trip during each spring break of her four years on campus. Through these trips, DeMarco worked with and served people in the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Spain and Mexico.
“Every trip was focused on helping the poor. We built chapels, we renovated an old schoolhouse for the children and we brought food for the poor,” she said. “It was a lot of construction work and a retreat atmosphere. You went to Mass every day and stayed with local families.”
When she first entered college, DeMarco wasn’t sure exactly what kind of ministry career she was working toward, but by the end of four years she’d narrowed her focus.
“I knew that I wanted to be involved … in a parish and be able to spread the faith in a parish or school. I wanted to be somewhere I could reach out to people,” she said.
DeMarco graduated from Christendom College on May 12 with a bachelor’s degree in theology. She began her position at the new cluster Aug. 1 and introduced herself to parishioners in a letter printed in the Aug. 5 bulletin.
“My name is Ashley DeMarco, and I will be working to organize and oversee the faith-formation, sacramental and youth programs in the parish cluster,” she wrote in the letter. “I am very excited to be joining the parish staff and hope that I can learn and contribute much to the church community.”
“My hope has always been to share and grow in my faith by serving at a parish community, and I look forward to doing that here in this cluster,” she wrote.
One of DeMarco’s goals is to find new ways to attract more teens to the cluster’s youth-ministry programs, she said. She’s hoping to explore different ways to answer the question, “If kids aren’t interested in coming, what would interest them?”
“I know sometimes that it’s hard to get the kids together. I’d like to see the youth-ministry growing more,” DeMarco said.
Although DeMarco has only been on the job for a few short weeks, she’s already found the three parishes to be very warm and welcoming.
“They’re very friendly here, and it seems like a very good community. Everyone works really well together,” she said.
DeMarco said her coworkers have been especially friendly and encouraging. Their support has helped her calm some of the nervousness that came with accepting her new position.
“They gave me the confidence that I know that I can handle the job. It’s a lot of work, but so far I can do it,” she said.