St. Michael the Archangel’s deep roots of parish life date back to the mid 1800s, with just 14 families who built a church in a beautiful rural setting in Waterloo. Today the thriving parish serves more than 400 families.
Jenny Buchs, director of youth ministry, has been serving the parish in that role since 2002. “We’re blessed to be part of a tight-knit parish family, and the youth ministry thrives because of the support by the countless parents who answer the call to help, along with parishioners who have a love for the youth. The intergenerational bonding between our youth and our older parishioners is a true blessing,” shared Buchs.
Buchs was baptized at St. Michael, but she grew up attending Immaculate Conception Church in Auburn. Post-high school goals led her to Manchester College, where she majored in elementary education.
“While I was in college I was active in the Newman Club on campus, and two months after graduation I began teaching sixth grade at St. Joseph School in Garrett,” she said.
I’ve been a parishioner of St. Michael for 26 years. I married my high school sweetheart, Chad: He grew up in the parish. Now we have five children on earth and two in the arms of Jesus.”
“My husband and I knew we wanted to start a family right away, so at the end of 2001 I had finished out the school year at St. Joseph and resigned,” Buchs shared. “I continued to do after-school tutoring and was a catechist for the religious education program for St. Michael. But I got a phone call one day from Father Dave Carkenord, saying he had an idea.”
Father Carkenord saw a need for more continuity with the youth program at St. Michael and reached out to Buchs to see if she would join the staff as the director of youth ministry.
The parish’s youth are comprised of students from two different counties, four high schools and five middle schools.
“The logistics of scheduling events, with all those school calendars in mind, can be a bit tricky to say the least, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, it all works,” stated Buchs.
The youth ministry program utilizes the Life Teen curriculum and meets throughout the school year. The high school teens meet twice a month after the Sunday 10:30 a.m. Mass for large and small group discussions, along with a once-a-month combined activity for middle school and high school youths. A balance of fellowship, Scripture study, service projects, fundraising events and parish involvement highlight the larger group activities.
“Our families make a dedicated drive to our parish each week, and we find that this time works best for everyone. We start with Mass, the source and summit of our faith; eat lunch, and then our lesson or activity. The teens find the Life Teen topics current and that they address the hot topics of today through the lens of Scripture and the heart of the Church.”
A popular activity throughout the years has been Care Package Day.
“The teens look forward to this annual event each fall. We fill care packages for former St. Michael youth group members who are currently in college or the military. Youth group families send in snacks and other items for the packages. Fundraising efforts and donations help to purchase other goodies and pay for the postage to mail the packages. We include handwritten notes, prayers, Chapstick, school supplies and whatever else the teens bring to fill the packages,” explained Buchs.
Buchs is able to continue working in the ministry, as a busy mom of five, because of the help of her husband. “He co-teaches with me on Sunday mornings and is my backbone with our children while I am serving the youth in all of the different activities and events.
“Like most catechists will say, we learn right along with the youth. I strengthen my own faith by researching and preparing the lessons for the teens. Each morning before my feet hit the floor, I listen to Bishop Robert Barron’s reflection on the Gospel of the day, sprinkle prayer throughout the day and a devotional at night. It helps me with my own faith journey.”
Buch’s servant heart is evident in the projects and events she prepares for the teens. Whether they are adopting residents of local nursing homes or participating in a 24-hour Lenten fast, learning about poverty and building solidarity with the poor. She hopes these acts of charity serve as reminders to the young people that Catholics are each called to be the hands and feet of Christ, to serve their brothers and sisters in need.
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