By Celine Klosterman
Many Catholics get into youth ministry because they want to give back to the Church that strengthened their faith, said speaker and youth leader Pat Millea. “But it’s rare for people to get to do that for the next generation in the place where they grew up.”
The graduate of Davenport Catholic schools and current Minneapolis resident has done so for years by leading retreats at his alma mater of Assumption High School. On Oct. 13, he’ll return to his home diocese again to offer keynote presentations at St. Patrick Church in Iowa City for the Davenport Diocese’s first young adult conference.
“It’s a blessing to get back, see all the familiar faces and remember my own faith roots,” said Millea, a former member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport. “It could be tempting to think I’ve done what I have on my own, but going back to the diocese reminds me there’s not much I did by myself.” Guiding him were teachers, youth ministers, pastors and especially his parents, whom he said offered a critical moral and faith foundation.
They accompanied him on a faith journey that began with his baptism in Alabama, where he was born. He later lived for six years in Springfield, Ill., and moved to Davenport in 1992, when he enrolled as a fifth-grader at St. Paul the Apostle School.
Years later, he got involved in a parish youth ministry program that played a role in his eventual discernment of his vocation. Pat McCauley, then St. Paul the Apostle’s youth minister, “was a great faith model for lots of us. He was a really faithful man with a deep love for the Church and teenagers. He wanted to make sure we experienced God the way he did,” Millea recalled.
Two teachers who then worked at Assumption — Clark McFerren and Dave Wolfe — also left an impression on Millea by “sneaking” lessons on faith into AP English and AP calculus classes, respectively.
Millea went on to the University of Notre Dame, majored in sociology and theology, and graduated in 2004. Later, he earned a master’s degree in theology from the school.
Throughout his time there, he led campus ministry retreats, evangelized through the Catholic fellowship group Four:7 and spoke at summer youth conferences called ND Vision. Full-time jobs in parish youth ministry followed, including his current position as director of high school faith formation and confirmation at the Church of St. Michael in Prior Lake, Minn.
“At parishes, speaking is part of my job — there are parent nights, confirmation sessions. Through that, pastors, friends and people I respected started to recognize my gifts,” Millea said. “I was always hesitant, wanting to make sure this was God’s will and a legitimate call.”
After prayer and discernment, Millea created informational materials about his services as a speaker — with a friend’s help — and began accepting invitations to speak at youth rallies and other Catholic events.
At the Davenport Diocese’s young adult conference, he’ll give two keynote presentations — on Catholic Social Teaching and sin and reconciliation.
That conference is the result of efforts by young adults and Pat Finan, diocesan faith formation and youth ministry coordinator, who make up the diocese’s newly formed Catholic Young Adult Network.
“It’s such a great mark of solid ministry for people in the diocese to put their efforts and resources behind events like this,” Millea said. “Young adulthood can be kind of a lost age in the Church. But this is a great chance for young adults to build each other up and identify a shared faith — which is probably easy to miss if you’re in your second year at a job where no one else talks about church.”
The conference will offer an opportunity to “be at peace with who you are and feel at home at church.”
Conference background, details
The Davenport Diocese’s Catholic Young Adult Network (CYAN) was initiated by Luke Ebener, 25, a member of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport. He volunteered in youth ministry at his parish, but found similar programs lacking for young adults on a broad scale.
So in early 2012, he approached Pat Finan, diocesan coordinator of faith formation and youth ministry, about creating new opportunities for Catholics ages 18-39 in southeast Iowa. “He was very excited,” said Ebener, who recently began a year serving in South Sudan with the Salesian Lay Missioners.
Finan said that in his 10 years working for the diocese, Ebener was the first person to come forward saying, “We need to do more; how can I help?”
“For something like CYAN to happen, it has to come from young adults,” Finan said.
The two men recruited several other young adult leaders, who held the network’s kickoff Mass and barbecue at St. Patrick Church in Iowa City July 15. About 45 people attended.
CYAN’s next event, a conference, will take place Saturday, Oct. 13, at St. Patrick Church in Iowa City. Titled “All Things are Possible,” the day will begin with sign-in and welcoming at 10:30 a.m. and open at 11 a.m. with the first of two keynote presentations by Pat Millea. Breakout sessions on faith-related topics, lunch, and opportunities for eucharistic adoration and reconciliation will follow. The event will end with Mass at 4:30 p.m. Cost is $15.
To register or get more information, visit www.davenportyouth.org/davenportya.org. Registration deadline is Thursday, Oct. 11.