By Jan Schultz
IMPERIAL (SNR) - Katie Dubas has a saying printed on the front of her business card that reads: “Helping youth meet Jesus, know the love of Jesus and give the love of Jesus to the world.”
She said that’s a personal goal as she begins a new direction in her life as youth director in the Grant Deanery of the Lincoln Diocese. It’s also a new direction for the Lincoln Diocese, as this is the first such position on the deanery level.
Hiring a youth director has been discussed for about a year among the four Grant Deanery priests who serve a combined nine parishes, said Father Bernard Lorenz, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Imperial.
“We had asked ourselves, ‘What can we do to strengthen the Catholic faith in our parishes?’” he said. “We agreed that working with our youth should be the emphasis.”
Plans started to develop on how the position would be financed, how work would be spread over nine parishes, and then advertising the position began.
The three other Grant Deanery priests include Father Thomas Kuffel of Grant, Father Lothar Gilde of Trenton and Father Thomas Wiedel of Benkelman. The priests also serve mission parishes in Wallace, Elsie, Wauneta, Palisade and Stratton.
All parishes in the deanery are contributing funds to support the youth director position on a percentage based on their size.
Dubas, who grew up in Kearney and is a Kearney Catholic High School graduate, comes to the position with a strong background in Catholic ministry.
After a year of college and an undeclared major, she joined NET Ministries. NET stands for National Evangelization Teams, which travel across the U.S. for nine months each year, sharing the Gospel with junior high and high school students through retreats and testimony of how Jesus Christ had made a difference in their lives, she said.
Two years with NET made her realize she wanted to share more of her faith, she said. She enrolled at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, where she earned a B.A degree in theology with an emphasis in religious education in 2001.
From 2001-04, she served as director of religious education at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Aberdeen, S.D., a parish of 1,200 families. There, she coordinated CCD classes, CYO, summer vacation Bible school, helped with RCIA and conducted a women’s Bible study.
She returned to Franciscan University in 2004 and spent four years as residence director for St. Thomas More Hall, the largest dormitory on campus, which housed 300 women. While back on the campus, she also completed several graduate classes in catechetics.
From 2008 until returning to Nebraska this month, she was director of evangelization and catechesis for the Diocese of Fargo, N.D. She coordinated diocesan-wide programs and was a “resource person,” she said.
It was in Fargo that she became acquainted with Bishop John T. Folda, who was ordained a priest in the Lincoln Diocese and was named Bishop of Fargo in 2012. According to Father Lorenz, he gave Dubas a “glowing recommendation,” saying he was sad to see her go but that it was okay since she was returning to his former diocese.
During her first weekend on the job, Dubas told parishioners at St. Patrick Parish in Imperial that about a year ago, she “felt some restlessness.”
That was about the same time the Grant Deanery priests began discussing the position.
“I told God then that I would do His will, and sure enough, doors kept opening, and here I am,” she said.
Her focus will be with junior high and high school students (grades 7-12), “helping them to grow closer to Jesus and help them determine God’s will for their lives,” she said.
In her new role, Dubas said she does not want to replace the many great volunteers already working with youth in the nine parishes.
“I want to be a collaborator,” she said, “with parents and others already doing these great events.”
She would also like to see more deanery-wide events planned that involve teens from all nine parishes, such as the Southwest Nebraska Catechism Kickoff held each fall.
Dubas believes she also can be a stronger link to the youth ministry office in Lincoln and its sponsored activities such as the National March for Life in D.C., its camps and retreats.
“When youths attend these events they meet other Catholic youths, have fun and realize they’re connected,” Dubas said.
“If you can get them to go to these events, it impacts them” for the rest of their lives, she said.
While details are still being ironed out, her hope is to rotate between the four priests’ parishes, and once a month, spend a full weekend at their Masses and be present for the grade 7-12 activities during the week before. Dubas is living in Imperial.
With about 100 teens in the Grant deanery, Dubas wants to immediately start developing prayer partners for them.
The Grant Deanery priests say an emphasis on youth programming and development is vital for the Church.
Father Gilde said youth can be energized in their faith by people like Dubas.
“How she lives her faith will be a huge example, one that shows it is not just we priests who love the faith.
“She is someone extra to mold, instruct and guide the youth to eventually be those guides themselves,” he said.
Father Kuffel said Dubas will be an aid to parents, too, as well as be an example to youth that this lifestyle is a healthier one than those to which they are often exposed.
He sees the position also helping the parishes in the Grant deanery, the furthest west in the diocese, connect more with Lincoln’ diocesan-wide activities.
People throughout the diocese can follow her activities on Facebook at: CatholicYouth.GrantDeanery.