The Church is for sinners, not just saints.
There’s a fine distinction between the two.
“Saints are what you get when sinners have an encounter with Christ,” said Maureen Quinn, the diocese’s newly appointed director of youth ministry and religious education.
She will assume this role on June 1.
A search committee headed by Deacon Enrique Castro, executive director of the diocese’s Faith Formation Department, selected Mrs. Quinn after interviewing many qualified candidates.
“I’m really excited about working with her,” said Deacon Castro. “I’m looking forward to everything she’s going to be able to do for the people of this diocese.”
Mrs. Quinn believes the key to effective youth ministry is to equip adults to help facilitate a personal encounter with Christ.
“We can’t be afraid of relational ministry,” she insisted. “At the end of the day, that’s what these young people are looking for. They need someone to accompany them and be in relationship with them.”
She sees her new role as helping youth ministers and catechists find what they need to engage in relational ministry in the parishes.
“Just like Jesus did with the 12, we need to befriend them, equip them and send them out,” she said.
Relational ministry is not the easy route, “but it’s the Jesus route,” she stated.
Now and then
Mrs. Quinn is a graduate of Helias Catholic High School in Jefferson City and Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.
She has served as a teacher at Maur Hill-Mount Academy in Atchison, as an administrative assistant in the Diocesan Religious Education Office, and for the past six years as a religion teacher and campus minister at Helias Catholic.
The interview process for her new position brought her to several parishes around the diocese.
She met with pastors, youth ministers, catechists and parishioners and learned about what they need and hope for.
“She sounded very excited,” said Deacon Castro. “I think she could see and identify with the different realities and challenges young people are going through at this moment.”
He was stuck by her knowledge, experience, ability to articulate the mission of the Church and eagerness to listen and learn.
“And her energy!” he said. “And her openness and willingness to see beyond what’s in front of her.”
She was comfortable and inquisitive in each environment, including when there were language and cultural differences.
“She sees that it’s not just about the present but about building-up the Church for future generations,” said Deacon Castro.
Servant and friend
Mrs. Quinn grew up in a Catholic family, went to Catholic schools, learned her prayers and never missed Sunday Mass.
She liked being Catholic, but as a teen, she began to wonder what was missing.
She was looking for something more personal.
She needed an encounter with God.
At one point, she thought about leaving the Church.
“The Eucharist is what kept me from leaving,” she said.
She didn’t realize until college that being Catholic means keeping company with fallible people who make mistakes but use them to learn how to get closer to God.
The Church is an oasis of mercy in a world that, as the late Cardinal Francis George once stated, “permits everything but forgives nothing.”
When Mrs. Quinn was in high school, a cousin invited her to travel to a youth gathering with Pope John Paul II during his historic visit to St. Louis.
There, through the inspired words of the now-sainted pontiff and in the presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament, she had her encounter and began her conversion.
“I left there keenly aware of God’s love,” she said. “I wanted to experience that for the rest of my life.”
She had to make some changes and let go of some friendships,
“But I’ve honestly never looked back,” she said.
She pins her identity to being a beloved daughter of the Lord.
“That comes first,” she said. “But I’m also called to be a servant to God and a friend to Jesus.”
Out of that comes the role of wife and mother, her vocation, which helps her feel complete.
While studying theology at Benedictine, she rediscovered the importance of friendship — with people in this life and with those who preceded her into heaven.
“What I love about the saints throughout history is that we’re all tied together,” she said. “I don’t just love what they got right. I love how they learned and got stronger from what they got wrong.”
Through Mrs. Quinn’s time as a teacher and mentor, she has emphasized the importance of adults leading young people to greater truth.
“We have to equip adults so they can give that strength and support,” she said. “And we have to equip young people to give it to each other.”
She became formed in the teachings of the Church at Benedictine and learned to understand them with an open heart.
As a teacher at Maur-Hill Mount, she discovered the equal importance of truth and evangelization when teaching the faith.
“Evangelization means leading others to a shared encounter with Christ,” she said. “We lead people into a relationship with God by being in relationship with each other.”
She takes many of her cues from St. John Paul II, who she believes was a master evangelizer.
“The way he went out and made himself fully present to youth, the way he articulated the dignity of the human person, and the joy he exuded in spending time with people,” she said. “Whenever he walked into a room full of people, you thought you were the only person he was speaking to.”
She believes God has blessed her with empathy, a desire to help people feel comfortable and the gift of helping them know that they matter.
“That really is the most important thing: to love and to be loved by God,” she said. “We need to learn to accept that love and willingly reciprocate it.”
Learning by doing
Through her six years in teaching and campus ministry at Helias Catholic, Mrs. Quinn recognized in today’s young people the same burning desire she grew up having for community and connection.
She is determined to pick up where her predecessor, John DeLaporte, left off in building-up networks of youth ministers and catechists throughout the diocese, and consistently giving each of them what they need in order to lead young people to Christ.
She is convinced that all of this ties into the new diocesan pastoral plan — specifically when it comes to helping all parishes become universally recognized as centers of charity and sanctuaries of mercy in their communities.
“Young people today, young families, young parents want their kids to experience Christ’s love concretely,” she said. “They want their kids to recognize Christ in others, and they want their kids to serve like Christ.”
From those experiences will come a desire for the sacraments, beautiful liturgies and the unchanging truth the Church upholds, she said.
“What moves them is service, and then everything else falls into place,” she said.
Mrs. Quinn said she learned to really love youth ministry during her time at Helias Catholic.
“I will always bleed blue and gold,” she stated. “But I know this is where God is calling me now.”
Father Stephen Jones, diocesan stewardship director, was president of Helias when Mrs. Quinn joined the faculty.
“I knew we had a person who not only loved the Lord and the Catholic faith but also loved forming and educating kids,” he said.
He is confident that she will bring that same passion, along with even more experience, into her new role.
“She has a heart for service, which will fit in well with Bishop McKnight’s pastoral plan to encourage our young people to help make their parishes centers of charity and mercy,” he said.
Jim Kemna, who was director of religious education when Mrs. Quinn was working in the Chancery, lauded her people skills.
“She has the human touch,” he said. “And her faith is real, not something from a book.”
Her predecessor, Mr. DeLaporte, also got to know her from her work at Helias.
“I am thrilled that Maureen will be assuming this role,” he said. “Her love for youth, her rich ministry experience and her dedication to the local Church make her an awesome fit. I know the Spirit will work tremendous things through her gifts and strengths.”
Mrs. Quinn asked for prayers for wisdom and guidance.
She often thinks about what St. John the Baptist told his followers when Jesus began His earthly ministry: “He must increase, I must decrease,” (John 3:30).
“This is not what’s necessarily comfortable, not necessarily what’s easy,” she said. “But it’s where I’m being called. Because this is God’s work, not mine.”