ROCHESTER — Asked what has kept her in the challenging field of youth ministry for a quarter-century, Sue Versluys replied by producing a note she recently received from a young person who had attended a diocesan retreat. The note expressed how Versluys had touched the writer’s life and praised her commitment to assisting young people on their faith journeys.
“That’s why I stay. That’s what gives me life, and that’s what I’ll continue to be drawn toward,” Versluys said.
Now Versluys has a new life, so to speak, based on her April 10 appointment as diocesan coordinator of youth ministry. She had filled that role on an interim basis since Michael Theisen departed the post of youth ministry director in November 2005.
Versluys is 53 years old “and proud of it.” She began in youth ministry in 1981 as a volunteer at her home parish of St. John the Evangelist, Spencerport. Beginning in 1992, she served for nine years as paid youth minister at St. John’s. She and her husband, Rich, also have logged many years as volunteers and leaders at Camp Koinonia in Yates County, particularly in conjunction with Family Camp.
In 2001 Versluys became a part-time youth ministry program specialist in the diocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis. Among her accomplishments was founding a series of one-day retreats for junior high school students, and an effort to incorporate greater ministry and sportsmanship in activities of the Catholic Youth Organization.
In her new role Versluys will coordinate all aspects of youth ministry for the diocese, from the Junior High Youth Rally and participation in the National Catholic Youth Conference, to youth conventions and local retreats. She has designated several youth ministers in the diocese to coordinate the larger events on a stipend basis.
Versluys praised Theisen — who left Rochester to become director of membership services for the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry — saying his impact in the diocese over his 13-year tenure is immeasurable.
“He responded to the parishes in a very effective way,” she said, adding that “my vision expands on what Michael has already done.” She said one of her personal priorities will be to reach out to all youth-related functions in the diocese, including such programs as Scouting, CYO, and parish-based youth ministry.
Versluys likened her acceptance of the new job with the Virgin Mary’s response to the news that she was carrying the son of God: initial trepidation but, ultimately, willingness.
“Mary was confident with her ‘yes,’ and I am confident with mine,” Versluys remarked.