A call to youth
Ministries worker looking for leaders

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

FORT SIMPSON (Feb 26/99) - John Pollock is on a mission.

As director of youth ministries for the Catholic Diocese of the Mackenzie, Pollock spent last week visiting Deh Cho communities in an attempt to best conceive of a way to implement a Christian youth program in the region.

Pollock met with social workers, teachers and recreation directors during the week-long tour with Father Joe Daley of Sacred Heart Parish. His goal is to figure out how the needs of youth can be met through a scripture-based, faith-development program that would promote leadership and living according to the values of the gospel. One component that he has in mind is to co-operate with existing groups, organizations and programs.

"We're all trying to get to the same place. We can help each other get there," he said.

For example, he suggested that a bush camp could potentially serve as a way to further gospel values. Native spirituality is "not at odds with Christianity at all," he said. The two could be intertwined in delivering Biblical stories and indigenous spiritual beliefs, he suggested.

Pollock, a former teacher and principal in the Yellowknife Catholic School District, has chaperoned students to Dreamcatchers' conferences and is hoping to take a large contingent to World Youth Days in Toronto in 2002.

Another idea he has would be to have students raise funds and use their March break to travel to Mexico where the Diocese of the Mackenzie supports an orphanage.

"They'd learn a tremendous amount and work with aboriginal people of another culture," he said.

His whirlwind tour of the communities proved fascinating because the variables differed in each place. He added that his policy is not to force his way into people's lives.

"I come into communities where I'm invited. I don't show up on your doorstep," he said.

He acknowledges that there are still some bitter feelings towards the Roman Catholic Church due to the troubling situations that existed in residential schools. However, he said that it's time to get beyond the shadows of the past and deal with any resulting dysfunction that may exist today. By appealing to youth, there's a chance to intercept the legacy of that dysfunction, he suggested.

"We're trying to guide them to where they want to be. They just don't know how to get there," Pollock said of today's youth.

In each community, he tried to identify young leaders who could potentially help deliver the program, one he defines as a "long-term project."

"There are a lot of great people out there," he said, adding that he doesn't see himself as an agent of change, rather as someone who can help others become agents of change in their communities through the Christian faith.