WESTPORT—St. Luke Youth teens have long been recognized for their faithful witness, joyful enthusiasm and willingness to share their time and talents with the parish. Now, a new internship has been created allowing teens to contribute to parish communications ranging from writing Gospel meditations to pitching stories to local media.
“This idea originated after a conversation with Deb Toner who is the youth minister for St. Luke’s,” shared Jennifer Coffman, mentor for the SLY Communication Interns. “I saw such joy in the SLY teens and would often say to Deb, ‘I wish we could simply unleash the teens into the world and let their special brand of enthusiasm change the culture.’ After saying this a few times, Deb and I decided to create an outlet to harness the evangelical spirit of the teens.”
Building on the post-synod focus on areas of evangelization, family life and community, St. Luke Church set out to redesign its website and rethink the way in which it communicated the Gospel with parishioners and the broader Westport community, especially by sharing the “good news” of what is happening at St. Luke’s. The internship was established to connect the communication and social media expertise of parish youth with the evangelical needs of the church.
Currently four teens—Allie D’Angelo, Chelsea Fox, Gabriel Sargent and Emma Van Riper—have volunteered to meet twice weekly to discuss upcoming parish programs and to brainstorm communication strategies for each initiative. Successes have already been noted with increased participation in fall and Advent activities and with increases in charitable fundraising efforts benefitting local charities. In addition, the percentage of opened emails and texts has doubled from Advent to Lent.
One SLY Communication Intern, Gabriel Sargent, has updated the website and written and designed several Flocknotes—including Gospel meditations and interviewing staff to highlight the work of parish volunteers. “Being a part of this mission has been such a powerful experience for me because it’s amazing to see how our work engages our parish,” Gabe shared.
“One of the most exciting aspects of this internship is the gift of watching these young teens blossom and seeing their faith deepen with each meeting,” noted Deb Toner. “The teens gain important skills in strategic planning, marketing and communications, presenting to parish advisors, while growing in their Catholic faith. They are learning how to become active Church members wherever they go to college or the workplace.”
SLY Communication Interns Emma Van Riper and Chelsea Fox agreed. Emma commented, “I love how the communication internship has allowed me to combine my passion for writing and my future communications major with my faith. Being able to explore this within the church has also enabled me to find my role in the youth group.”
Chelsea added, “I really love being a part of the internship program because I also want to pursue communications in college and maybe as a career, so it gives me a great opportunity to learn about different communication techniques while connecting to my faith.”
Since the inception of the program in October 2018, the teens have worked on many communication projects, including website design, parish-wide communications using Flocknote, event and activity promotion, Gospel reflections, traditional public relations including press releases, blog posts, event photography, social media assistance and parishioner tech support and tutorials for Flocknote.
SLY Communication Intern Allie D’Angelo added, “I have had the ability to go into groups within the church, such as the Men’s Group, to help them sign up for Flocknote and increase membership within the parish. The internship is a great way to incorporate faith into my passion for communications.”
“As a pastor, communications is a big part of my vocation,” shared Msgr. Andrew G. Varga. “It has been a joy and an enormous help to include the teens in this ministry. I would not have been able to keep the website updated, custom-design weekly Flocknotes and submit event language for local media promotion. I can bring my ideas to the interns and they work with Deb and Jennifer to create the best strategy and implementation plan. Personally, I look forward to Monday afternoons when the team gathers at the rectory dining room table and discusses the Sunday Scripture readings and upcoming Church events.”
There is a wonderful quote attributed to Saint Ignatius of Loyola that illuminates what is happening with this program: “Act as if everything depended on you; trust as if everything depended on God.” When parish leaders invite our teens to join them in sharing the Gospel and accompany the teens in their faith journey, Jesus takes it from there.
(To see the SLY Communication Interns’ work firsthand, visit the parish website at: www.saintlukewestport.org and receive updates by texting slwestport to the number 84576 or go to flocknote.com/SaintLukeWestport.)