By STEPHEN O’KANE, Staff Writer | Published March 20, 2008
By engaging youth in a blend of selfless actions and catechetical teachings, Lynn Ory has gained the attention of the National Catholic Educational Association and the National Association of Parish Catechetical Directors.
This year, at the 105th NCEA convention and NPCD religious education convocation in Indianapolis March 25-28, the youth minister from St. Oliver Plunkett Church in Snellville will receive a national award.
Ory has been chosen to receive the NPCD Religious Educational Excellence Award, which, according to the organization’s Web site, “recognizes highly regarded parish catechetical leaders whose programs offer new ideas or unique approaches fostering lifelong faith formation.”
Carol Kruskamp, director of religious education at St. Oliver Plunkett, nominated Ory for the honor because of what she has seen her do with the youth program for sixth-graders through high school seniors over the last 10 years.
“(Ory) has been able to bring the program to another level,” said Kruskamp. “She understands the big picture of catechesis.”
It is not just the large numbers of teens and youth participating in the program that draws attention. It is the manner in which she carries out this program that inspired Kruskamp to submit Ory’s name to the NPCD.
Criteria for the award include an understanding of the church’s commitment to lifelong faith formation and being highly regarded by the pastor, diocesan catechetical leader, parish staff, parishioners and peers. Ory is one of three people in the country chosen for the award.
Kruskamp felt that Ory not only met all the criteria, but rose, and continues to rise, above and beyond what is expected of her.
“I am very humbled,” said Ory. “Sometimes I feel like I’m not worthy. … We’re just planting a seed.”
A seed that, when fostered adequately, grows into a strong faith. Ory has seen the fruits of her labor as members of her youth group get married to one another and others come back to serve the teens that they once were.
The parish has been a Life Teen parish for over a decade and began the EDGE for middle-schoolers in 2005, a program sponsored by Life Teen that “is designed to meet the educational, spiritual, emotional and social needs of young adolescents.”
The NPCD affirms that the honor is bestowed upon a “parish catechetical leader nominated by professional peers. The focus of the award is on noteworthy parish programs that offer new ideas or unique approaches helpful in parish catechesis.”
Ory has been responsible for bringing many ideas to teach the St. Oliver Plunkett youth the ways of the Gospel. Her methods consist of more than simply presenting the teachings of Jesus. For Ory, the most effective way to reach the youth is to put the Gospel into action.
A local mission trip is one of the avenues for young people to experience the message of the Gospel firsthand. As trips to distant missions became more and more expensive, Ory began looking for a way to bring the experience of a mission trip closer to home.
She learned of a youth program at Corpus Christi Church, Stone Mountain, led by Heather Garger, that gave youth opportunities to serve in metro Atlanta. Ory and her youth group teamed up with Garger and Corpus Christi to complete a weeklong mission trip to serve the local community.
The following year, the St. Oliver Plunkett youth group teamed up with the youth at St. Stephen the Martyr Church, Lilburn, and have been doing local missions together for the past five years.
“The kids didn’t realize that there are opportunities to serve right here in our community,” said Ory.
The mission experience usually begins with Mass on Sunday and continues throughout the week. The kids learn by serving others in the local community through a variety of different means.
Ory’s group has helped at The Fish, a program that provides meals for underprivileged children, as well as other service projects that include cleaning up yards for parishioners in the community and clearing a walking trail for a local elementary school.
Ory has also served as middle school coordinator for the Archdiocese of Atlanta since 2003, organizing monthly events for that age group such as a middle school rally and Super Service Saturday, and assisting parishes to develop their programs. A product of Catholic schools in New Orleans, her native city, she spent years working with youth through the Girl Scouts and a day camp that her parents owned in Louisiana. She is a graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana and an advanced catechist in youth ministry in the archdiocese.
When she and her husband, Randy, who is also a religious educator and teacher, moved to Georgia approximately 11 years ago, she found a close Catholic community at St. Oliver Plunkett Church.
“St. Oliver’s really became a home away from home for me,” she said.
Her ministry in Georgia began with middle-schoolers as a parent volunteer and has since grown into a large program that reaches out to youth of all ages.
“What started out as a few people sitting around eating pizza on Sunday nights has turned into a ministry that now sees approximately 75 to100 youth each week,” said Ory.