“My parents took me and my three siblings to church each week, I attended St. Vincent school and Bishop Dwenger High School, but it wasn’t until I participated in Life Teen that I had a conversion experience,” shared Klinker. “I encountered Jesus and discovered a personal relationship with Him. I’ve been running after Him ever since.”
Klinker is the middle school youth director at St. Vincent, coordinating and leading the ministry. The journey that led her to the ministry was nothing but a continued path following Christ wherever He led.
Throughout her high school years, Klinker was very involved with Life Teen. She served in leadership roles with the youth program and also took on leadership roles in campus ministry at Bishop Dwenger.
She attended Marian University for an undergraduate degree in elementary and special education. “My studies at Marian allowed me to receive my B.A. in elementary education along with fostering my passion for ministry. I started campus life groups, which encouraged students to participate in small groups, praying and studying the Scriptures.
“My friend and I would pass by St. Matthew Cathedral Parish each time we would head back to campus, and one day we decided to stop in and see how we could help. I was able to continue my love for ministry as we helped in their youth ministry and confirmation programs during my college years.”
Returning to her roots at St. Vincent de Paul School upon graduation, Klinker taught kindergarten, along with continuing to help in the high school youth program. During a team brainstorming session on how to better reach the teens and how do they get them to come back, they discovered that by the time teens start high school, encouraging faith formation is a little too late. The need for a strong middle school program became obvious, so Klinker went to work.
“I started to do some research and developed a plan for the middle school students. I presented the plan to Msgr. Kuzmich and it became apparent right away that this was going to need a full-time coordinator. I was hired and have been serving in this role since 2011.” She and the young people work with The Edge ministry, a middle school curriculum of Life Teen.
There have been some changes throughout the past 10 years, but the ministry continues to grow. Klinker said she is always searching out new ways to help the young teens to encounter Jesus.
Through the dedication of a strong core team, small groups of seventh and eighth grade students meet weekly.
“The teens gather together for a game, a speaker, small-group discussion and time in prayer. During the pandemic this has taken place completely in a small group setting, thanks to our incredible core team,” explained Klinker. “The young people are also given retreat experiences to foster a deeper relationship with Jesus; a girls retreat, a boys retreat, an opportunity to attend Catholic Youth Summer Camp and a fun week of activities learning about the Mass, called Mass Hysteria.”
“I attribute my strong faith to the guidance of my parents, grandparents, godparents and other holy mentors throughout my life, as well as the encouraging support of close friends and my fiancé, Chris Lushis. I take time to nurture my faith by attending daily Mass, adoration in our new oratory, praying the rosary and by having a consistent daily prayer life. By surrounding myself with a community of great friends outside of my parish also helps me to find balance and take care of my body and soul,” Klinker said. “I have been able to find balance and constantly renewed energy to help me with my ministry for the long haul.”
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