092019_2019ServiceDay_0048St. John Bosco, a 19th century teacher of the youth on the streets of Turin, Italy, once said, “Be brave and try to detach your heart from worldly things.”  Our church patron’s message is most clearly conveyed today through the work of its Youth Ministry Director, Mike Gibson.

Early Life

A native of Steubenville, OH, Mike was an altar server at his home parish, but high school sports consumed much of his time.  Mike explains how high school sports were huge events in the small town, and his faith helped him deal with the pressure from peers and fans.  He attended the University of Akron and graduated from the University of Phoenix with a degree in Computer Science.  Mike presently works as a software engineer.

Youth Ministry at SJB

In 2012, Mike heard Fr. Jurcak present a homily about using one’s gifts through volunteering for the church.  That homily, according to Mike, was “truly a message that God put on my heart.”  Immediately following that Mass, Fr. Jurcak approached Mike about re-starting a youth ministry at SJB.  Feeling inspired, Mike gladly accepted.

As the Youth Ministry Leader, Mike says, “I’ve always tried to empower the kids to see beyond what the world tells them.  The world tries to put ‘static’ between us and God.  The goal of the ministry is to give kids the tools to focus on building a closer relationship with God.”

The Ministry is open to youth from grades 6 through 12.  Currently, the dynamic group consists of 16 members.  Past activities included camping trips to the Alive Fest Christian rock concert and prayer experience weekend at Atwood Lake, as well as Nerf wars and game nights at SJB.

An avid science fiction fan, Mike often derives activity themes from the “Star Wars” movies and books. “We’ve studied how the ‘Force’ of the Holy Spirit can help us.”  Every activity contains a message about spirituality.  The “Whom do you listen to?” game involves blindfolding a member and asking him or her to navigate a maze by listening to just one person, while others try to verbally distract the member.  In the Nerf wars, one member may choose to silently act as a traitor, while other members try to discern the players’ loyalty.

During the Covid quarantine, the group has been studying “The Chosen” DVD series which tells the life of Christ through the eyes of the 12 apostles.  While not intended as a catechism lesson, Mike encourages discussion on the series to help youth nurture their faith.  The group will resume its meetings in February.  Post-Covid, Mike is hopeful that the group can schedule a retreat at the University of Steubenville, perform service projects at the Parma Heights Food Pantry, and hold open gym nights at SJB.

Family Life

Mike and his wife Suzanne have three sons, Michael, Sam, and William. The talented Suzanne sings with the SJB choir, and their older sons are dedicated altar servers.  The family’s active participation in the Youth Ministry exemplifies the words of Saint Pope John Paul II: “ Dear young people, let yourselves be taken over by the light of Christ, and spread that light wherever you are.”

Submitted by:  Christine and Bob Martuch