By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published February 4, 2010
The Brooklyn diocesan coordinator of adolescent faith formation, Marilyn Santos, has joined the archdiocesan Office of Formation and Discipleship as associate director of youth ministry and associate director of inculturation.
Santos, who is a native of New York, spent the last three years on the staff of the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y. Prior to that she worked for nine years in parish youth ministry and before that taught elementary and middle school students for 10 years. In an interview, Santos said she has already been struck by the booming growth in the metro Atlanta area.
“Atlanta is bursting. It is ready to take the next step in growing the ministry,” Santos said.
In her first month of work here, she has seen some differences between her previous diocese and the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
“The parishes here have embraced the idea of youth ministry as a catechetical ministry,” she said, noting that in her previous job, she was still working to convince parishes that youth ministry “is more than youth group. It is faith formation.”
The upbeat and joyful Santos was born to a Puerto Rican father and a Colombian mother. She is the younger of two girls and grew up in a strong Catholic home. Though she has traveled extensively, this is her first time living outside her home state. She has a small replica of Shea Stadium and a classic New York Mets “PEZ” candy dispenser on her desk to remind her of home.
Despite the new surroundings and new challenges she will face, Santos is optimistic.
“There’s a lot to grow here. It will be good for me. It will challenge the way I do things,” she said.
Dennis Johnson Jr., director of the Office of Formation and Discipleship, said that among numerous applicants for the position, Santos was recommended as the first choice by his staff and by members of an interview advisory committee, which was comprised of several parish ministry professionals including priests, youth ministers and directors of religious education.
“They were unanimous that Marilyn was the best choice,” said Johnson. “She is no stranger to youth ministry and her skills cross cultures.”
With a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Hunter College, New York, and certification in youth ministry, which she earned from the Center for Ministry Development in South Orange, N.J., Santos is currently working on her master’s degree in religious education from Fordham University.
Her career began in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a teacher. She has used her bilingual skills to teach English as a Second Language and adult basic education as well as religious education for adults and children.
Highly active on a national level, she has served as a delegate to the National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry and on the board of directors of La Red, the National Catholic Network of Pastoral Juvenil Hispana, a ministry focused on reaching young and young adult Hispanic Catholics.
She serves on the board of VIDES-USA, a Catholic volunteer missionary institute that provides service opportunities to lay young adults, inviting them to be a part of its worldwide missions.
Santos was a catechetical speaker at World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Australia, and has been a presenter at various conferences, including the National Conference for Catholic Youth Ministry and the National Catholic Youth Conference.
Johnson said Santos initially will focus on meeting and getting to know the youth ministers throughout the archdiocese in her position as the associate director of youth ministry.
As the associate director of inculturation, a ministry Johnson calls an emerging trend throughout the country, Santos will work with Hispanic youth groups and those of other ethnicities and constituencies in the church that may be underserved.
In a statement on the archdiocesan Web site, the office describes inculturation ministry as collaboration with “department entities, ministry leadership and parishes to ensure that the gospel and ministry permeate every culture. Drawn forth by the Catholic principle of ‘unity without uniformity’ we provide support, training, and resources that respect the richness of our multicultural Church.”
“She is making sure we are doing what we need to do to include these parts of the church,” said Johnson of Santos. “She will help us move the whole package forward.”
“She has been recognized as a leader for some time,” he said. “She comes with quite a pedigree. … She will move us to the cutting edge with these ministries.”