Youth ministry event opens Hortonville teen’s eyes to service in church

Bishop’s Appeal supports parish youth ministry, religious education activities

GREENVILLE — Surrounded by 3,000 Catholic youths in the midst of a three-hour Eucharistic Adoration prayer event at the 2013 Steubenville Youth Conference in St. Louis, Mo., Derrick Diedrich felt himself come face-to face-with Christ.

“I truly met Jesus for who he is. I saw him, in a spiritual sense, and put him in the center of my heart. I realized there was no place I’d rather be than wrapped in his love,” said Diedrich, 17, of Hortonville.

Derrick Diedrich, 17, a member of St. Mary Parish in Greenville, buttons up his cassock prior to serving at Mass Jan. 30. Diedrich, who teaches religious education at his parish, says a 2013 youth conference in St. Louis inspired him to get more involved in his faith. He is now discerning a vocation to the priesthood. The Bishop’s Appeal supports youth ministries that allow diocesan youth to learn more about their faith. (Steve Wideman | For The Compass)

Diedrich had no idea what he was getting himself into when he attended the conference.

“It was a lot of fun, but once speakers started telling us how life with Christ was so amazing, I was just so inspired. I had been in adoration before, but in (St. Louis), with 3,000 others surrounding me, I gave my life, all of it, to Christ,” said Diedrich, who is being recognized for his involvement in the Catholic faith as part of the annual Bishop’s Appeal campaign to raise funds to support the operational needs of the Diocese of Green Bay.

The Bishop’s Appeal is a chance for everyone to give and get into their faith, said Josh Diedrich, no relation to Derrick, who is director of the Bishop’s Appeal and assistant director of the Catholic Foundation.

“Derrick in someone very committed to his faith. I recognized that the moment I met him. The love of faith he has really impressed me,” said Diedrich.

Josh said he is amazed Derrick teaches seventh grade religious education as a 17 year old.

He said Derrick is just one example of how the Bishop’s Appeal helps people live out their faith journey.

“Youth ministries are important in today’s world because youth are looking to find light and move away from the darker things in life,” said Josh.

He said the theme of this year’s Bishop’s Appeal is “Faces of God’s Mercy.”

“Derrick sees God’s mercy all around him. The Bishop’s Appeal brings God’s mercy to thousands each year,” Josh said.

He said 75 percent of the diocesan funding for education, including religious education classes like those taught by Derrick, comes from the Bishop’s Appeal.

“Young people like Derrick are the future of the faith. We need to educate them,” Josh said.

A junior at Hortonville High School, Derrick attends St. Mary Parish in Greenville.

The son of Joe and Faye Diedrich, Derrick has an eye toward attending seminary when he graduates.

He said his parents provided a big influence in building a love for his faith.

“They took us to church every Sunday and that was the greatest blessing ever,” Derrick said, who attended Catholic schools through eighth grade. He considered becoming an architectural engineer and attending UW-Madison, but is leaning toward attending St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.

“When I first started getting into my faith in 2013 at Steubenville, they asked if anyone was thinking of entering the priesthood. I felt called to go. I had never thought of it before but when I heard they were looking for men who wanted to be priests it just tugged at my heart. Ever since then, the excitement has been building inside me and I’ve been in prayerful discernment about my vocation,” Derrick said.

He met with Fr. Daniel Schuster, vocation director for the diocese, and went on a seminary visit to St. John Vianney on Dec. 12. He also has participated in silent retreats for vocations.

“I really get excited thinking about entering the seminary, but I also think about being a husband and father. I’m definitely thinking about it both ways but I really feel called to the seminary right now,” Derrick said.

Fr. Schuster said Derrick “is a guy who gives me hope for the future because of his openness and courage.”

“Derrick has embraced the church because of all it offers,” Fr. Schuster said. “I consider Derrick a disciple of Christ. I like to see young people like Derrick become disciples. Catholic youths are a source to be reckoned with in today’s world.”

Derrick is well-known in his parish and among the Catholic community of Hortonville and Greenville.

“Derrick is very committed to serving during our Masses and reaching out to young people,” said Fr. Peter Mitchell, pastor of St. Mary Parish. “He volunteers as a catechist every Wednesday and is very involved in our youth groups. He is so prayerful and really believes the Catholic faith is something he wants to share with other people.”

Derrick said he enjoys teaching seventh-grade religious education.

“I grew up in Catholic schools with a good basic knowledge of the Catholic faith. After Steubenville, I also had this new light in my life. I want to show that light to others. I want to show the seventh grade kids what an encounter with Jesus is,” Derrick said

Derrick said he recalls one particular student named Ethan as being particularly rowdy, rambunctious and off the wall.

“But as classes went on, he started to pay more attention to the lessons. I always showed them videos of different Catholic musicians. Ethan liked the song ‘Lord, I Need You’ by Matt Maher. His sister told me how he downloaded that song and would not stop listening to it. He completely changed from not wanting to come to religion class, but to looking forward to it. I was amazed,” Derrick said.

Derrick, who is an altar server, lector and usher at church, is involved in numerous other youth activities and ministries. He recently served as a team leader for diocesan youth attending the March for Life in Washington, D.C.

“Whenever I go on a trip, I want the people to have the same encounter I had with Christ,” he said. “Going to the March for Life, you experience what it means to live out your faith, including standing up for life, doing things like working in a food pantry and helping the Little Sisters of the Poor. We have a chance to joyfully live out our faith with love and compassion and putting the Eucharist at the center of our lives.”

He said his goal as a priest would be “to get as many souls to heaven as I can.”

“The thing I enjoy most about my faith is receiving all that Jesus is. The more I get into my faith, the more I get out of it. I enjoy the beautiful joy that comes with being a disciple of Christ and being with others who are also filled with joy,” Derrick said.

To learn more about the Bishop’s Appeal, go to this link.