Whenever someone asks how I got to be the way I am today, I answer without hesitation “My church’s Youth Group.” Over the four years I spent at the Youth Group of St. John the Evangelist in Davison, I have experienced so much. I have become deeper in my faith in Christ, I’ve assisted the poor in the surrounding community, I’ve been to Washington DC and Kansas City, I’ve taken out someone’s tooth with my elbow in a wrestling match, and many more memorable experiences. Throughout all four years, I shared my time and experiences with our amazing Youth Minister, Paul Schlegelmilch. Recently, Paul has accepted a job at Holy Redeemer church and will no longer be running the youth program at St. John. I felt it was necessary to write a blog in honor of such a great person and to thank him for all he has provided the Youth Group with. (I sound as if he just passed away or something!)
When I attended Blessed Sacrament church for the first few years of my life, Paul was in charge of the church’s youth program. I remember being in second grade and he would lead us in “Our God is an Awesome God” and help out with the parish any way he could. Eventually, he transferred to St. John of Davison while I was in third grade still at Blessed Sacrament. Two years later, our family tried St. John out as we were seeking a new parish family. I went through the mandatory Catechism classes without much enthusiasm. I was hanging out with the wrong crowd and didn’t pay much attention during the classes. Time went on and suddenly I was a Freshman about to enter the Youth Group program. At first, I was a little hesitant-I didn’t know what Youth Group was and I tried to persuade my mom to let me avoid it. She made me go anyway and the rest is history. It was nice to see Paul my Freshman year after not seeing him since I was in 3rd grade. He hadn’t changed a bit; he was still a very caring person who wore a full suit and dress pants everywhere.
I’ll write the rest of this blog as a short bulleted list of memories of Paul and/or experiences through my Youth Group made possible by an awesome Youth Minister.
- In tenth grade, I began to question the existence of God. I realized how broken I was inside and how I was not the person I thought I was. By continuing to go to Youth Group and seeing God’s love in the teens and adults that went there, I slowly began to rebuild and reexamine my relationship with God.
- Every Wednesday before Youth Group started at 7:00 and couple of my friends and I would get there at 5:00 to just play Wii, watch TV, work on homework, act like hooligans, and just be teenagers. Paul would let us do almost anything (within reason) and always offered us drinks and snacks throughout our free time.
- On free nights, many of us teens wanted to play sports. Whether it be ultimate Frisbee or sand volleyball, Paul would play in his dress shirt, tie, and dress pants.
- Paul was always willing to help people financially. Whenever we would have a trip coming up that cost money, he would always say, “If for some reason you can’t come up with the money, just let me know and I’ll take care of it for you.” He would also ask us for suggestions of things to put in the Youth Room. He trusted our judgment and gave us money to go out and buy a Wii, a video camera, and anything else that we wanted for our Youth Group. If we were ever there early, he would offer to buy someone dinner. When we helped him for hours with manual labor, he’d be unnecessarily generous in his monetary appreciation. Whenever money was an issue for you, Paul was there to lend a helping hand.
- Last summer, I started a big community service project renovating a field near the church. Paul would come out in his dress shirt and dress pants, grab a shovel, and help us out. He helped pay for the supplies used to improve the field and was extremely thankful that my friends and I would start such a major project without being asked to.
- On some Wednesdays, I was asked to read scripture to the Youth Group during prayer time and offer my own homily/reflection. This inspired me to become a lector for my church and has helped me tremendously with my public speaking.
- Paul did more behind-the-scenes work than many people will ever know. He was the man when it came to setting up dinners to serve the community, preparing, maintaining, and doing post-work for our major camp Catholic Heart Work Camp in which we house over 250 students from across America, setting up lesson plans for the Middle School program, and so much more. Paul is one of the hardest working people I know.
- Every winter, I looked forward to going to our retreat house, Subiaco, in Oxford. It was a beautiful way to revitalize my faith and get connected on a deeper spiritual level to Paul and my fellow teens.
Honestly, I could keep going on about how great Paul is and how thankful I am for having such a great experience in my Youth Group. My morals, my public speaking skills, my kindness, and the overall person I aspire to be has all been developed by my former Youth Group, led by Paul Schlegelmilch. As Paul leaves for his next adventure, I know he will have a lot to offer for his new group of teens. I ask that you keep him in your prayers while he helps Holy Redeemer church as well as pray for the future of the Youth Group of St John in Davison. Thank you Paul for everything that you have done. You will be missed and we wish you the best of luck. Now go change some more teens’ lives!