HOWARD — Youth ministry coordinators Jody Engebos and Christine DeWan insist that they did not coordinate retiring at the same time. It just happened that way.
Engebos recently completed eight years of ministry at St. John the Baptist Parish in Howard, while DeWan ended a four-year stint at St. Agnes Parish in Green Bay. Both parishes are a part of West Side Youth Ministry, a collaborative effort of the parishes in the greater west Green Bay area. Engebos and DeWan joined together one more time, serving as chaperones on a trip to Columbus, Ohio, for a SHINE Catholic Work Camp. The trip was led by Fr. Patrick Beno, pastor at St. Agnes, and Fr. Scott Valentyn, parochial vicar at St. John the Baptist.
The summer mission trips stand out for Engebos.
“It’s a week that those kids will not forget,” she said. “I always tell them, ‘Maybe you don’t remember what you did last summer, but you will never forget this trip. You will be 50 years old and still remember this trip.’”
Engebos encourages parents to make their children go on a mission trip, even if they resist.
“I’ve seen a number of kids who didn’t want to go the first year, come back on their own the next year,” she said. “Those trips are life changing. It’s good for kids to step out of their comfort zones.”
Collaboration with youth ministers on the west side of Green Bay began from day one for Engebos. There was not much in place for youth ministry at the parish when she started in 2009.
“I received a lot of help from the people at the Quad (Parishes in Green Bay—St. Jude, St. Joseph, Annunciation and St. Patrick),” she explained. “I was looking for knowledge of how to have a fundraiser, how to plan a trip, where to go. They said, ‘Come with us, do this.’ Their support was priceless.”
“(Collaboration) makes work more fun,” said DeWan. “It’s been one of the blessings.”
In addition to St. John the Baptist, St. Agnes and the Quad Parishes, West Side Youth Ministry also includes St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Green Bay and Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Ashwaubenon. A winter lock-in and Friday Night Live gatherings for middle school students and Connect 4 offerings for high school students have been among the collaborative events. Offerings for youth by the diocese have also helped young people grow in their faith.
“When I first started, I used to tag on to the St. John Bosco (Youth Day) trips (Holy Hill),” said Engebos. “Maria (Schuette, diocesan director of youth ministry) has made it so easy. The Green Bay Youth Conference is a big thing. We just need to get kids there. All this goodness in Green Bay has really exploded.”
Prayer is at the center of all events, she added. For example, at a summer evening gathering, young people wrote prayers on paper lanterns. Food is also important.
“Whenever we do anything, we have to have hot dogs or pizza. You can’t catch fish if you don’t have bait,” said Engebos with a smile.
Both Engebos and DeWan, a member of St. Joseph Parish, are open to new ministerial opportunities.
“The Holy Spirit told me to hit the road,” said DeWan with a laugh.
“It hasn’t been revealed yet,” she added about future ministries. “It can be a little unsettling, but you know what, it’s going to be OK. I told Fr. Patrick (Beno) that I do my best work off the clock, so maybe that’s why the Holy Spirit is moving me in a new direction.”
“I want to get involved in all ministries,” said Engebos. “I want to be involved in buildings and grounds, Bible studies, Life in the Spirit. Teens Encounter Christ is really dear to me. I have been asked to be on the board. This (St. John the Baptist) is my parish. I’m excited for the other stuff. I know so many of these kids. They are all solid gold. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for them.”