By Tanya Connor | The Catholic Free Press
A 27-year-old graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville has been hired as the diocese’s director of youth and young adult ministry.
On April 24 Timothy T. Messenger Jr. is to take the helm at the Worcester Diocese’s office, New Evangelization Worcester for Youth and Young Adults. He is currently associate director for youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Baton Rouge in Louisiana.
Father Nicholas Desimone, the Worcester office’s interim director and pastor of St. Mary Parish in Uxbridge, made the announcement this week. “We were blessed to have many candidates apply for the position, very good and talented candidates,” he said. “And Tim stood out as the best fit for New Evangelization Worcester and the direction that we’ve been setting in the last three or so years.”
After the previous director, Elizabeth Cotrupi, left in August, Father Desimone became interim director, a position he is to hold until Mr. Messenger comes.
Speaking with The Catholic Free Press by telephone, Mr. Messenger said he wants to “bring the Holy Spirit in whatever way I’m called to in the Diocese.” Bringing the Holy Spirit into events for youth can combat relativism, which is a big challenge with youth ministry, he said.
He said his goal is to be in a “servant, support role,” offering ideas and resources for parishes, where the heart of youth ministry takes place. He hopes to meet many people here, learn what the needs are and continue, and build upon, what’s already being done.
He and his wife, Megan, and their daughter, Lucy, 3, are coming in April because his wife is expecting a baby in January, he said.
He was looking for a job in the New England area in part because his wife’s parents live in Colchester, Conn., he said. He said he was offered the Worcester Diocese’s position several weeks ago, and he accepted it after meeting with Bishop McManus and Father Desimone at Thanksgiving time.
Mr. Messenger said his parents are in the Baton Rouge Diocese, where his father is to be ordained a permanent deacon in June. His two older brothers live in Louisiana, his older sister in Mississippi.
He was born in Baton Rouge. His family moved to Fresno, Calif., then Findlay, Ohio, where he attended elementary school at St. Michael’s and Findlay High School.
In high school he had a conversion experience in confession at an event at the University of Notre Dame, he said. He wanted to share his faith with peers, but struggled with how to communicate it. That prompted him to learn more.
“I knew I wanted to go into ministry,” he said.
Mr. Messenger got his bachelor’s in theology and catechetics, with a concentration in youth ministry, from Franciscan University in 2011, and his master’s in theology and Christian ministry through the school’s distance program last May. He said his wife also got her bachelor’s and master’s there; she studied mental health and counseling.
While a student there, Mr. Messenger said, he helped lead parish retreats through SENT (Student Evangelization Networking Teams) Ministries. He also helped with a combined-parish EDGE religious education/youth ministry program for middle school students. And he worked with fellow young adults as a coordinator of a household, a spiritual support group on campus, which helped him discern his call to youth ministry.
One summer he worked at The Pines Catholic Camp in Big Sandy, Texas, for youth ages 7 to 17.
In January 2011, Mr. Messenger said, he became youth ministry director at St. Richard Parish in Gibsonia, Pa. In July 2014 he became associate director for youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Baton Rouge. There he oversees youth ministry, which comes under the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.
Among events there is a day-long, diocesan conference which he tries to model on the Steubenville youth conferences held around the country, he said. He said he attended one at the university after high school and took youth there when working in Pennsylvania.