St. Mary Magdalene, Toronto, is finding new ways to connect with its youngest members, thanks to the leadership of the Rev. Jennifer Schick. Ms. Schick was appointed the parish’s part-time associate priest responsible for children and youth work in January 2014.
St. Mary Magdalene received a $75,000 grant from the Our Faith-Our Hope campaign to help fund the position. The grant will be distributed over three years, with the parish also contributing funds from its operating budget.
Ms. Schick says she has a lot of room to grow in her role. “We’re trying to grow our ministry both inside and out. Kids are always asking great questions, which means we have to work hard to have engaging programming that will get across deep theological truths to a wide range of age groups,” she says. “As we try to work internally to have the best programming we can, we’re also aware that we need to reach out the wider community, too.”
One goal of her ministry is to better integrate children and youth into the life of the church by offering more programs for them. Ms. Schick has introduced new events throughout the year, including a Shrove Tuesday party, a family movie night during March Break, a Halloween open house, an Advent wreath-making party, carolling in the neigbourhood, and youth group activities.
She has also started new Sunday School programs, recruiting teachers and regularly reviewing materials. In addition to programs for children aged five to 13, the parish now offers a nursery for toddlers and a one-room schoolhouse during its 11 o’clock service.
The parish has already seen signs of success. This past Christmas, Ms. Schick organized St. Mary Magdalene’s first Christmas Eve service for families. “We had 140 people come out to it, which was amazing. Many were people from the community we’d never seen before,” she says.
While the parish has welcomed new families, Ms. Schick is less concerned with numbers than with the experiences the children and youth are having. In her ministry, success means that “they like being there, and that they have fun building up a community amongst themselves as well, so it’s not just about Sunday School, it’s about being part of the life of the community.”
Ms. Schick says she also hopes to enrich the lives of adults within the parish. She is working to get more volunteers involved, “having people step up and offer to run these programs, be really enthused and be nurtured themselves in their own faith.”
More than a year into her ministry, she is optimistic about the future of children and youth programs at St. Mary Magdalene. “Last year was my first year, so we tried a bunch of things and we’re looking forward to doing them again,” she says. “The great thing about the parish and the volunteers I’m working with now is that they’re up for almost anything.”