Parish life changes in Victor - Catholic Courier

Parish life changes in Victor

In mid-July, Lori Cunliffe accepted the position of youth and parish-life coordinator at St. Patrick Parish in Victor. As a mother of two teens, Cunliffe is used to planning activities for young people in that age group. In her new position, she’ll also be responsible for coordinating events for the parish’s families, senior citizens and young adults.

The broad scope of her new position doesn’t bother Cunliffe, however, and she threw herself into the job with excitement and “a list a mile long of ideas.”

“If this is where God wants me to be, it will happen,” she said.

That has been Cunliffe’s mantra for the past several months, ever since she heard Megan Anechiarico was leaving her post as the parish’s youth- and young-adult ministry coordinator. Anechiarico, who had been at St. Patrick since September 2004, plans to move to Boston in the fall to pursue her doctoral degree in systematic theology at Boston College.

After news of Anechiarico’s impending departure spread throughout the community, several parishioners suggested that Cunliffe apply for the job, which was modified to include the parish-life component. Cunliffe has been an active volunteer at St. Patrick since she and her husband joined the parish 18 years ago, and she’s also taught in the parish’s Christian-formation program.

Although the position sounded intriguing, Cunliffe wasn’t sure it was the right time for her — or her family — to leave her job and begin a new career. After much consideration and prayer, she eventually decided to apply for the position but encouraged the parish staff to interview other candidates and hire the person they felt was most qualified. She reassured them her ego wouldn’t be bruised if she wasn’t hired, and she prayed that God would let her know where he wanted her to be.

“When they offered it to me I just said, ‘Absolutely,’ because this must be where I’m supposed to be,” Cunliffe said.

Cunliffe, who will pursue her youth-ministry certification this year, will be responsible for coordinating the parish youth group. She’ll also plan activities and events for other segments of the population. For example, she’s hoping to start an exercise class for the parish’s senior citizens, and she’d also like to host a scrapbooking night for parents of high-school seniors.

“Our goal is to connect like-aged people together to support each other. It’s for them to be able to come together with people going through the same experiences as them,” she said.

Cunliffe expects to spend a good portion of her time working with the young adults in the parish. That particular age group can sometimes be hard to minister to and include in parish life, but within the past year Anechiarico and several young-adult parishioners formed a fledgling young-adult community at St. Patrick.

A core group of about 10 young-adult parishioners attended most of the young-adult community’s events, which included a potluck supper and a stroll to an ice-cream stand near the church, Anechiarico said. Most of the people in the group are in their late 20s or early 30s, although young-adult events have attracted a small number of younger members, she added.

“She (Anechiarico) did a great job getting that young-adult group going,” Cunliffe noted. “We’ll keep doing those kinds of things that she had going, and with the addition of parish life, we’ll expand that to other age groups.”

Anechiarico met many of the young-adult community’s core members through the parish’s baptismal-preparation program, which she took over last year. She sat down with them several times during the year to talk about the challenges young adults face, as well as what they felt they needed or wanted from their church. Those discussions formed the basis for the young-adult community, Anechiarico said.

Cunliffe will follow in Anechiarico’s footsteps and work with couples preparing for a baptism, and she also plans to work with couples going through the parish’s marriage-preparation process. This way, she’ll hopefully make more connections with young-adult parishioners at a variety of different stages in their lives. Young adults can be difficult to minister to, primarily because although they may be the same age, they may not all be going through the same experiences.

“There’s singles, there’s marrieds. There’s some with kids, there’s some without kids. They’re at all different levels in their journeys,” Cunliffe said.

Starting a young-adult community was challenging at times, but it also was a blessing, Anechiarico said. Although she’s excited about beginning her doctoral studies and hopes to eventually teach theology at the college or university level, Anechiarico said it’s been hard to leave the group, especially since it’s so new and still developing.

“That’s the heartbreaking thing for me in terms of leaving,” Anechiarico said. “I’ll miss them very much. They’re a great group. I think there’s a lot of motivation there, and I’m very hopeful that things are going to grow.”

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