Meet the EQSaints Team – Jenny Kodysz

Each week, we’re introducing you to a member of the EQSaints team who is working to bring our new resources to life.

This week, core team member Jennifer (Jenny) Kodysz took some time to answer our questions about what inspires her to work in youth ministry and what advice she’d offer to others in the field. Jenny Kodysz is blessed to serve the Diocese of Austin as the associate director in the office of Youth, Young Adult, and Campus Ministry where she primarily serves high school youth ministry leaders and pastors through support, training, and consultation. She also manages the Austin diocesan youth conference and works closely with National Catholic Youth Conference.

Jenny, why do you choose to work in youth ministry?
I grew up in a parish with incredible youth ministry. The people who served in youth ministry as catechists and volunteers genuinely loved and cared for us. To this day, I am able to catch up with some of them when I visit the parish I grew up at! Youth ministry made a huge difference in my life, and I am blessed with the opportunity to serve the Lord in such a meaningful way.

When did you know you wanted to be a youth minister?
There was a not a defining moment for me. When I was in high school, my youth minister affirmed my gifts and talents and encouraged me to consider youth ministry. I then worked as an assistant youth minister at my parish while I was in college. However, my undergraduate work focused on writing and journalism. I hoped to be a news reporter. I sought the Lord each step of the way, and he opened doors for me in youth ministry. As I tell people, I thought knew what I wanted to do with my life, but the Lord knew what I needed to do. Serving in youth ministry has brought so much more joy into my life than I could have ever imagined.

What experience most prepared you for the work you do today with young people?
I would say that there is not one experience. It has been the cumulative years of experience that I have. The longer that I serve in youth ministry, the more I learn about the people that I serve, and can hopefully serve them better as time goes on.

What’s your favorite memory of working with young people?
One of my favorite memories is a funny memory. We once asked a teen to lead dinner prayer. He led us with “the prayer that Jesus prayed at the last supper.” He then went on to pray the “Bless us, O Lord” meal prayer. This happened many years ago, but I still think of it often with a smile.

What makes you excited about the future of our church?
As Hebrews 13:8 says: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” What excites me most about the future of the church is that the church belongs to Christ; as his body and his bride. In Gaudium et Spes 10, it says that in Christ we find the goal of man and all of human history. We find ourselves in Christ. We find ourselves in his church. No matter what is happening in the world or how much times change, Christ is the constant in which we find ourselves and the church the constant by which we continue his mission.

Which of the changes coming at EQSaints are you most excited about?
I’m excited for the changes coming with Equipped for Life, and the greater integration of the scriptures into the lessons. As I have grown in knowledge of the scriptures, I have not only grown in knowledge of God and his plan for our salvation, but grown in love and knowledge of who I am as a child of God. My hope is that participants may also grow in love of God by encountering him through his word.

What’s one piece of advice you’d offer youth ministers today?
Do everything you can to foster and nurture a healthy spiritual life. Pray often. You are not in this alone, and it is not something you can do by yourself. While this seems like obvious advice, oftentimes people who serve in apostolic work put the spiritual needs of others before their own, at the expense of their own. In order to lead others to Christ, you must first have a healthy relationship with him. Youth ministry is challenging work, but the Lord will always give you what you need to serve.

What is your idea of a great youth group session?
A session in which participants are making connections; connecting with the Lord, each other and the material in such a way that the impact lasts beyond the walls of the gathering space.

What’s your favorite Bible verse?
Psalm 128
A song of ascents.
I raise my eyes toward the mountains.
From whence shall come my help?
My help comes from the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
or your guardian to sleep.
Behold, the guardian of Israel
never slumbers nor sleeps.
The LORD is your guardian;
the LORD is your shade
at your right hand.
By day the sun will not strike you,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will guard you from all evil;
he will guard your soul.
The LORD will guard your coming and going
both now and forever.

Who is your favorite saint? Why?
Saint Augustine. I get great consolation from reading the works of Saint Augustine, particularly his Confessions. His writing is a reminder of the loving mercy of the Lord and the need for ongoing conversion.

What parts of church life are you most looking forward to when the pandemic passes?
Seeing peoples’ faces again!