Jay-Ann Gutierrez is a dynamic youth minister, leading St Aidan’s Eucharistic Youth Ministry with grace and love.
“Youth ministry is probably one of the bigger stories of my life,” Jay-Anne told Catholic Outlook.
“It’s not just a side thing, or extracurricular activity, it’s something that’s very much involved in character development and personal growth.”
World Youth Day 2008 was a major turning point in her practice of the Faith. It gave her clarity about the meaning of Christ and His Church and reinvigorated her interior commitment to prayer.
“That would be one of the biggest personal highlights because that’s when I started to break out of the closed mindedness of the teenage years because you can be very consumed with your own life and school,” Jay-Anne said.
“It really opened my eyes to the Church to how much the Church has done for its people and the community.”
Now she has been doing youth ministry for 10 years and the greatest satisfaction comes from seeing younger people grow in the Faith and want to know, love and serve Christ.
She has seen the junior youth ministry grow from less than a dozen young people to almost 50 people each month.
Young adults have responsibility for All Night Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament each first Friday. It’s a sacrifice you make when you are devoted to Our Lord.
The overall youth ministry is named St Aidan’s Eucharistic Youth Ministry because it is centred on love for Jesus through the Eucharist.
A series of talks run through different groups for different ages.
Simon Carrington of Fire Up Ministries is currently talking about the meaning of love to the young adults of the parish. “What is love, in its essence? Looking at love as sacrifice, looking beyond ourselves and in the wider scheme for all people.”
Young adult youth group members are encouraged to be contributors to the parish and the Church beyond the parish. It’s a highly collaborative group and several, including Robert Bautista, are strongly tied to assisting with the parish sacramental program.
“Rob Bautista generally gives talks to parents. So, as well as the kids receiving formation before receiving the sacraments, the parents also receive formation,” Jay-Ann said.
Jay-Ann’s rich melodic voice that trills in powerful solos is one talent she shares with the Church beyond her youth group with Catholic Youth Parramatta’s LIFTED Band.
“I love it. I love being part of the band. It’s such a lovely group of people wanting to sing for Jesus, it’s just awesome.”
Jay-Ann is a graduate of St Clare’s Catholic College, Hassall Grove and Loyola College, Mount Druitt. When Jay-Ann studied education at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, she very much enjoyed the university’s program of philosophy and theology.
“The Logos program is the best. I loved it,” she said.
Jay-Ann has a clear enjoyment of youth ministry and sees the impact of young people realising the power of divine love.
“When you’re at a retirement home and you see an elderly husband taking care of his really sick wife, that’s real love there.”
Jay-Anne believes it’s important to explain to young people that true love, human and divine, is “not based on a hedonistic view of love.”
Some of Jay-Ann’s personal heroes are St Therese of Lisieux and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, a patron for youth.
Jay-Ann shared one of her favourite quotations from Blessed Pier Giorgio.
“To live without faith, without a heritage to defend, without battling constantly for truth, is not to live but to ‘get along’; we must never just ‘get along.’”
She also finds inspiration in the work of Dr Edward Sri, the theologian and founder of FOCUS, a huge Catholic university student ministry in the United States, which has brought the truth of Christ to thousands of young people and also resulted in many youth ministers pursuing religious and priestly vocations.
“For me, being Catholic is all about that constant struggle for truth and being the best you can be for God and in service of others,” Jay-Ann said.