Second article in a review series for the year 2016 in the Diocese of Helena.
By Cody Tredik
Doug Tooke, the Coordinator of Youth Events for the Diocese of Helena, received the National Youth Ministry Award for Diocesan Ministry in a Rural Population at the National Conference on Catholic Youth Ministry (NCCYM) in San Jose, Calif. on December 3, 2016.
Tooke has been involved with youth ministry in the diocese since 1998 when he was the Youth Minister at St. Matthew’s Parish in Kalispell. After two years of ministry in the Archdiocese of Seattle, Doug returned to help found Catholic Youth Rural Outreach (CYRO) the multi-parish youth ministry program in the Flathead Valley. He served as director of CYRO until 2007 when he became the coordinator of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the diocese. From there, he has organized and implemented youth ministry programs across the diocese and nationally, serving on committees for the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM).
“On paper, this award says that we have created models in a rural environment that were successful, but it is more an affirmation of hundreds of youth and adults,” Tooke said. “Rural diocesan ministry is incredible, and it is because of incredible volunteers and dynamic youth coming together that we have been successful.”
The awards are sponsored by the NFCYM, and have ten categories (not all of which are awarded each year). Each recipient is nominated by their peers. Doug was nominated by Paul Jarzembowski, the Coordinator for the Ministry to Youth and Young Adults for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
According to the NFCYM, the Diocesan Youth Ministry Award is given to:
“A person who has made a significant contribution in youth ministry on a diocesan level and who has served as an outstanding model of service to others in youth ministry. A person who has served as a ‘keeper of the vision’ for comprehensive youth ministry.”
These qualities can be seen through the thoughts of those who work with Doug, both fellow ministers and young people.
“Doug’s a dreamer. He dreams big and then attacks it to make it happen. I look at programs like the Catholic Youth Coalition Convention, and it is miles away from where it was when I was in high school,” said Kelly Ruby, the youth minister for Resurrection and Holy Rosary parishes in Bozeman, who has known Doug since he was her youth minister in the Flathead Valley 16 years ago. “He’s very good at fostering dreams and vocations in others, always encouraging young people to find their way and seek ways to give back to the church through ministry.”
For Doug, this is one of the most important parts of what he does. “More than anything I think that this award says that we empower well,” Doug said. “It’s never about one guy’s programming, it’s about youth who are taking up the call to take discipleship seriously. They own the ministry here, and getting to lead that is what makes this an honor. One of the places where we have been most successful is building jobs at parishes for young adults to be successful youth ministers. I’m so proud of that, and all of the adults who have stepped up to lead.”
Kelly is one of many examples of this cyclical model of service, first experiencing dynamic parish and diocesan youth ministry and later discerning a career in youth ministry. This empowerment continues today with young people like Ray Shipman, a High School Junior from Dillon, and current president of the Catholic Youth Coalition Board. “Doug knows how to lead, not just by being the boss, but rather by allowing kids to come up with good ideas and then helping them make those ideas happen,” he said.
Doug’s success can be credited to the great energy he invests in his work and his deeply rooted faith. “Deacon Dan McGrath of Holy Spirit parish in Butte, a man I greatly admire, used to always say that no matter what you do, you must create a place for the Holy Spirit to work,” Doug recounted. “I’ve tried to live by that. When we create that space, great things happen, so we have to continue to work our tails off to open ourselves to the Spirit, and things will flourish.”
“Doug is always willing to put in the hard work to achieve the vision of great youth ministry in our diocese, and shows us ways to lead, be joyous in all things, and have a good relationship with Christ,” Shipman said.
“The best thing about what Doug has built is that he’s created a lasting impact on the diocese, it will last without him long after he’s gone,” Ruby said. “He’s crazy, genuine, and hilarious, but at the end of the day he’s a man who follows God passionately, and that passion has led to great things. I hope that passion has been passed on. I believe it has.”
Along with his diocesan work, Doug serves as Youth Ministry Director for Ss. Cyril and Methodius Parish in East Helena, on NFCYM Committees and as emcee for the New Diocesan Director’s Institute in Wash. DC. He also frequently travels to teach, conduct workshops and serve as a conference keynote presenter with Monarch Ministries. At home, Doug enjoys the adventure of raising five girls with his wife Becky.