More than just a job: Guiding youth to spiritual growth with compassionate leadership

April 9, 2024

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo presides over Mass at the 2023 Archdiocesan Youth Conference in Houston. Thousands of young people attend the annual conference every year, in a unique three-day encounter between the Catholic Church, its Sacraments and the youth. (Photo by James Ramos/Herald)

HOUSTON — For Suzette Morin, a catechetical leader with her parish youth group at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, her main priority is to create spiritual-growth opportunities for the youth to encounter the love and mercy of Jesus up close and on a deeply personal level. This often leads to profound emotional encounters with Christ.

Affectionately known as “Miss Susie” in the parish’s Spanish-speaking community, Morin has served as an adult leader in various capacities over the last 10 years. She actively seeks opportunities like Eucharistic Adoration or area-wide events like the Archdiocesan Youth Conference (AYC) for teens, aiming to provide them with sacred places where they can find solace from the pressures of daily life, peer influence and other adversities at home or school.

“I’ve seen all of these kids in my parish grow up before my eyes,” Morin said. “The parents know that I’m going to take care of their children, and I have their best interests in mind. Whatever they need, they know that I will try to get them the help.”

Alongside her own children, who grew up in the parish’s youth programs, Morin has guided young parishioners as altar servers and in preparation for the Sacrament of First Eucharist, as well as shepherded teens through Confirmation and in various youth-group programs.

Morin has witnessed the profound transformation that occurs when her teens participate in AYC, especially during their initial experience at the event. She observes a remarkable change in their hearts and treasures the opportunity to be with these young Catholics as they come together to encounter the Holy Spirit and strengthen their relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Seeing that transition is impactful,” Morin said. “Witnessing how the Holy Spirit and God have touched them, it’s remarkable. It reinforces my dedication to bring teens to AYC because that’s what you want to see.”

Morin’s dedication to youth ministry deepens her own spiritual formation and growth, strengthening her relationship with Christ. This personal journey profoundly influences her capacity to impact the teens she serves.

“Attending the Lenten mission at my parish, spending time in Adoration, and attending AYC myself with the teens have all contributed to my spiritual growth,” Morin said. “This has allowed me to better serve them and find experiences that truly impact their lives.”

AYC is among the events tailored for older teens in the Archdiocese, organized by the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization (OACE). The ministry emphasizes the significance of faith formation programs, retreats and events like AYC in facilitating profound encounters with the love and mercy of Jesus Christ for adolescents. Through such initiatives, OACE empowers parish leaders like Morin to cultivate lifelong discipleship among Catholic youth, thereby ensuring the vitality of the Church’s mission for generations to come.

Recently, Morin and the youth ministry leaders encountered a significant gap in their program: There were no activities tailored for middle schoolers. Determined to address this issue, Morin and her team sought assistance from OACE, realizing the potential impact on these young adolescents without proper support.

OACE is supported by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF), a vital resource that sustains over 60 ministries within the Archdiocese. Through DSF, scholarships are provided for youths to attend events like AYC and other essential programs, offering opportunities they might not have otherwise due to financial constraints. Morin deeply appreciates the faithful who support the annual DSF appeal, recognizing the profound impact it has on the youth she serves.

“Especially coming out of COVID-19, some kids couldn’t afford to attend these events, seeing the impact on their parents’ financial status,” Morin said. “But with fundraisers and scholarships provided through DSF, they’re able to participate. I thank all the donors who dig deep into their hearts to provide the means for attending AYC and other impactful events offered by OACE that touch so many lives.”

To learn more about OACE and its mission to provide leadership, formation and resources in Comprehensive Youth Ministry for parishes to effectively form adolescents into lifelong disciples in the Catholic tradition, go to

To donate to the Archdiocese DSF’s annual appeal, go to The DSF supports OACE and 60-plus additional ministries, whether direct service or education, which require this critical funding to remain in operation. Out of each gift given to DSF, 100% of every dollar goes directly to supporting these ministries. †