Rose St. Thomas is the co-coordinator of the diocese’s Youth Ministry Apprenticeship Program.
The Youth Ministry Apprenticeship Program (YMAP) allows people who have a potential calling to youth ministry to complete a nine-month apprenticeship at a parish within the Diocese of Toronto. During this program, apprentices are given support and encouragement to work on discerning their calling and to develop the skills needed to work in youth ministry. YMAP participants can complete this program either through a job shadowing model, where they have a youth ministry mentor to guide and teach them, or in a parish partnership model, where YMAP offers an interested parish support with training and partially financing the hiring of a part-time youth worker for nine months.
As a new addition to the YMAP team, I am working with seasoned YMAP coordinator Cormac Culkeen to help enrich the youth ministry at the seven participating parishes we have lined up for the 2022-23 year. We’ll provide very real supports to apprentices and their parishes, and also arrange for several weekend retreats to help apprentices continue their ongoing journey of spiritual growth and discernment. We’ll give one-on-one guidance and direction to apprentices as they set their goals and intentions for the program, and help them to meet those learning goals through a process of skills-building and self discovery.
I am very excited to organize in-person weekend retreats for our YMAP apprentices this year. We’ll be having these retreats several times throughout the 2022-23 program, and for the first time since the pandemic began, they’ll be offered in-person! As thankful as I was for the possibility of Zoom retreats during my own 2020 YMAP experience, there is something deeply meaningful about gathering together to ponder our callings, our faith and our journey with God as a group, face to face. I am truly looking forward to cultivating a series of creative, prayerful, and educational spaces where this year’s YMAP apprentices can lean into deep contemplation, learning and fun. On top of all that, I really enjoy conversations about discernment, callings and prayer, so I am looking forward to having many of those in the coming months with our new round of apprentices.
I was an apprentice in YMAP for the 2020-2021 cohort, doing a job shadow placement at All Saints, Peterborough. I am a pretty quiet person who likes to stay in the background, so receiving ongoing support and guidance while practicing my public speaking skills in a church setting was really wonderful. Additionally, I got tremendous value from the intentional periods of reflection and prayer that are structured into the YMAP experience. Learning how to be a part of youth ministry at All Saints in a very hands-on way was also exciting and stretched me out of my comfort zone. It was amazing to see my skill set grow in ways that helped to support and care for the youth and families in the neighborhood, while also bringing a lot of additional joy and meaning into my life.
I was born and raised in Peterborough, Ont., with some time spent away living in Oakville and Kingston. I’ve spent a good amount of time accumulating books and student loans (as well as a BA in illustration, English literature, and an MA in English literature). I have spent time working as a teacher’s assistant, an online ESL teacher and, currently, as a library public service specialist as a content writer, and as an assistant to youth and family ministries at All Saints, Peterborough. I love books, and have recently been able to start enjoying them again after a period where reading unexpectedly became difficult for me during the pandemic. I also love early morning creek-side walks in the woods, writing, creating art, periods of prayerful contemplation, journaling, spending time with my friends and family, and eating all the snacks.
What would I like to be doing five years from now? That is such a challenging question for me to answer! I hope and pray that wherever I am in five years’ time, I am deeply rooted in my faith and God’s unconditional love for all creation. I hope I am living a life that is in keeping with my core values of diversity, inclusivity, creativity, compassion and community. I hope that I’m taking the time to be still in the woods and intentionally spending time with God throughout my day. I hope I’m writing. I hope I am a part of a beautiful family. I hope that I am surrounded by love, and that I am acting in real and tangible ways that also reflect God’s love back to the community around me. I hope that I am brave and say “yes” to the things that matter most, even if I find that “yes” scary. That’s more of a reflection on who I hope to grow into being with the help of God and my community in the next five years, so I hope that’s all right.
My favourite passage from scripture is Romans 8:35-39. I love the imagery that is invoked by this description of how nothing can separate us from God’s love – not life or death, not the present or the future, not any distance of any conceivable measure, not violence, not trouble. Nothing. There is no separation. As someone who is queer and has encountered times of deep suffering (sometimes in religious spaces), I spent many years in my 20s believing that God’s love would not extend out far enough to ever reach me. Today, I deeply cherish this passage because it grounds me in the beautiful reality of God’s radical, inclusive, unconditional and ever-present love – not only for me, but for all humanity and for all living beings on this beautiful, hurting and holy planet. God loves and values each and every one of us, without exception.