Youth Minister receives national award for years of service and adaptation to pandemic restrictions

Mandy Kumler, Youth Ministry Coordinator at St. Aloysius Pewee Valley, has served as Youth Minister for 19 years. She attributes her longevity to seeing youth ministry as her calling and having been flexible in her approach over the years. (Recording photo by Kayla Boyd)

PEWEE VALLEY, Ky. – Mandy Kumler has an infectious laugh, a dynamic demeanor and a call to youth ministry. The latter was celebrated when she received the Companion on the Journey award from the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry.

Kumler, youth ministry coordinator at St. Aloysius Church since 2002, received the award in a ceremony on November 5. She was nominated for the award by the Archdiocese of Louisville Office of Youth and Young Adults in part for how she adapted her ministry during the pandemic.

“Mandy is an absolute delight,” said Aaron Frazita, associate director. “Her flexibility and adaptability, the way she adapts to the needs of the group, is why we named her. “

And she adapts.

One of his favorite parts of the ministry – mission trips – was put on hold last year due to COVID-19 restrictions. Instead, Kumler connected with students online during the pandemic.

“The COVID year has been more difficult, I stayed active online with the kids the entire time because I was like, ‘They’re not distracted,'” Kumler said. “They don’t have all these other things that they’re always screaming about. They’re just home and bored so I did stuff online, I mean as good as the ministry can be online. But again, that’s the whole point of adaptation. I could have said to myself “Well, this is weird” and gone and hide in my hiding place. But there was a need there.

Kumler enjoys youth ministry even though she realizes that it may not be for everyone.

“I really get a lot from being with the kids; I think they’re funny, ”she said. “It is a gift that God gave me; not everyone agrees with me. And I appreciate it very much. My faith is strengthened by seeing their faith grow.

Despite COVID-19 restrictions placing limits on group sizes and gatherings, Kumler said service events with the ward and gatherings of youth groups continue to attract volunteers.

Mercy in Motion, the monthly service meeting of the St. Aloysius youth group, hosted Blanket Louisville this month. The local nonprofit collects and distributes new and lightly used blankets to homeless people in Louisville. Nearly 30 volunteers showed up to make blankets.

The idea for the Mercy in Motion ministry came from Pastor Father John Stoltz who wanted to focus on intergenerational ministry. Kumler associated this with the requirements of sacramental preparation to create the monthly ministry. As a result, students preparing for First Communion and Confirmation, as well as their families, regularly attend Mercy-on-the-Go meetings to complete service projects together.

Kumler always approaches this job with enthusiasm, say those who know her.

“One of the things I love about Mandy is that she’s the joy of our faith in action,” Frazita said. “Even on her most difficult days, she does it with a smile.”

Mary Hynes, pastoral associate and director of religious education at St. Aloysius, applauds Kumler’s dedication.

“She’s got patience beyond anything,” Hynes said with a laugh. “I couldn’t do it. It just rolls with it.

Kumler noted that the exhaustion of youth ministers is typically three to five years. She attributes her longevity in youth ministry to a sense of calling. It is “not just something to do while I discover my life,” she noted. She said it also helps to recognize that youth ministry evolves as children and generations change.

A St. Aloysius group led by Youth Minister Mandy Kumler, seated right, made blankets to donate to Blanket Louisville, a local nonprofit that collects and distributes blankets to the homeless in the city . (Recording photo by Kayla Boyd)

“So your kids graduate, they move on, things change. What if you’re like ‘No! We’ve never done it this way! ‘ Then you burn out and pass out. Or if you’re just like, “I don’t care, this is God’s ministry, it’s not mine,” then it’s like, “OK, that’s what we’re going to do today.” hui! “”

Children these days have extremely busy schedules, she said.

In an effort to “be out of the problem” and contribute to the busy schedules of teens, Kumler changed and met his students where they are.

“Previously the children were engaged and would still be there on Sunday,” she said. “No matter what happened, if the door was unlocked and there were snacks, they were there. And now they’re busy; I don’t want to be part of the problem.

Instead of meeting once a week, she says, her group usually meets once a month.

“We’ll have worship in the chapel and we’ll have a kind of student choir singing praises and worship in the chapel, and then we’ll have an activity after that,” Kumler said. “It is working right now. “

The only thing Kumler thinks everyone should know about youth ministry is its importance.

“Youth ministry is important,” Kumler said. “I think that often we (as youth ministers) are not understood. We are a little different. Plus, those of us who are here for the long haul are a little different and quirky and that’s because we have a knack for it. It is a very important ministry.

Frazita echoed Kumler’s emphasis on the importance of youth ministry and said it is such an essential endeavor that all are called to it.

“Everyone thinks that being a good minister of youth is being the person speaking in front of the children, but it is also like inviting them to be a choir waiter or to bake brownies for a bake sale. or to be a coach, ”Frazita said. “We are all called to serve young people in different ways.

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