APPLETON — A lot of life happens outside of the parish, said Emily Jenks, who is involved in youth ministry in the diocese as both a volunteer and now an employee.
“Engaging people is important to me. That’s what I love. I live my faith in those engagements with people,” she said.
Before beginning her job as faith formation coordinator at St. Bernard Parish in June 2018, she was in the corporate world with Secura Insurance and Faith Technologies. “They were awesome places,” she said. “They allowed me to be active in my community and parish.” She has been a leader of faith formation for a number of years and became more involved in young adult ministry, eventually taking more of a role at the diocesan level.
“In the corporate world, I got to know people — their everyday struggles — and was able to share my faith with them in a real authentic way,” said Jenks. “This transitioned over to the young adult world. It all happens in the neighborhood. That’s why I meet people in coffee shops — that’s where life happens for them. I’ve gotten to know people in these settings. It’s important to me to foster relationships, then we go to Mass together.”
Today her role at St. Bernard Parish is working with middle and high school students, “but we approach faith formation as a total parish. We’re all in this together,” she said.
At a young age, she said, she had people who shared their faith with her.
“It allowed me to live and share my faith outside of my family. People accompanied me when I was young. When I stepped away from the faith for a time, they stuck with me and I came back to Jesus. Accompanying people and sharing Christ with them is the core of my life,” said Jenks.
Another important connection came while she was working at Secura Insurance, which had a partnership with an elementary school. “I was partnered with a fifth-grade boy. Even though I am no longer at Secura, I continue this mentoring. I realized this showed me the important role of a mentor. I had that in my youth in a church setting,” she said.
The student, she said, “has taught me so much. Meeting with him is the favorite part of my week. His sharing himself with me has been a gift.”
Jenks said she is not one to plan out her future. “I like to think short-term,” she said, laughing. “Right now, I want to maintain young adult relationships. My goal is helping others to grow as disciples and to help them along and develop as disciples who can lead others to Christ.”
“I love doing mission trips with youth, too,” Jenks continued. “I hope to do more of that. I don’t know what God has in store for me, but right now I love being in Appleton. I love being here and everything Appleton has to offer — the arts, the diversity, the beautiful nature.”
For now, her focus is on using her talents to help others.
“I want to concentrate on the person in front of me and not let society’s problems overwhelm me,” she said. “I was in Young Neighbors in Action and those mission trips are really important to me, seeing church and Christ in all these settings. It showed me ways I can use my gifts and talents.”
Jenks called Jane Angha, who is coordinator of youth ministry services and project coordinator of Young Neighbors in Action, one of her role models. What she learned from her, she said, has become part of her life philosophy: “She showed me how to put people first. You meet people first and see Christ in them. Programs come second.”