Young youth minister primed to connect

Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
St. Isidore Cluster Parish youth group leader Cameron Riecker of Celestine brainstormed with teenagers ways the youth group could work to improve the community during a recent youth group meeting at St. Raphael Catholic Church in Dubois.


CELESTINE — Fresh out of college, 21-year-old Cameron Riecker’s life took an unexpected twist that landed him exactly where he wanted. The Celestine man took over as youth minister for the St. Isidore Catholic Parish in July, and he said he’s looking forward to embracing his personal journey through the Catholic faith as he helps the kids grow.

You graduated last May with a degree in biology from the University of Southern Indiana. How did you get here?

That’s kind of a long story. (Laughs) Originally, the plan was for me to go to chiropractic college after I graduated from USI. Both my parents are chiropractors, and that’s kind of what I anticipated doing most of my life. Moving forward, I got to (my senior year of) college and I had a friend who started questioning me about (Catholicism), ‘Why do you do this? Why do you do that? What’s the point of this?’ Just really raising a lot of red flags and questions in my mind. And I’m not the type that settles at face value for anything. If I’m going to know something, I’m going to know everything about it. That happened in December (2016). Since then, I’ve read the entire Bible. I’m reading the Catechism (of the Catholic Church) currently, and I just kind of caught fire for how beautiful the faith is really and what’s going on there and how it’s awesome.

I started going to hours of adoration and I just prayed about it. I didn’t do anything for like a month over the summer other than read, pray and go to adoration. This opportunity presented itself to me — they were looking for a new youth minister — and it hadn’t really dawned on me until Deacon Mike (Seibert) brought the idea up to me and talked to me about it. So I said, ‘Sure, I’ll apply, interview and see what happens.’ So I ended up getting the job, and since then it’s been really cool. What I want to do with my life right now. I lived 20 years for myself, the rest of my life is for God. Whatever he decides to do with me I’m open to it at this point. This has been the best three months of my life. I’d love to say it’s because of the job, but it’s more because of what led me to the job than the job itself.

At graduation, did you have any idea your career path could change as wildly as it did?

No. When I graduated last May, I was apprehensive about going to grad school. I was actually going to work for my parents over the summer. They have a detox and wellness program, and I was going to be a sales rep for that. I did that for a little bit and it went well, but I just didn’t feel fulfilled. I felt like I was called to something different — something else. So I started going to adoration, prayed about it a lot, really looked inside before I could look out, and got called to where I am now.

Have you been a Christian your entire life?

Growing up, if you would have asked me if I was a Christian I would have said yes, but I don’t think I really understood what that meant until recently. You can believe that there is a God, believe that there is a Jesus, and not be a Christian. To be a Christian is to be a follower of Christ, a disciple. It’s not to just say that these are my belief systems — even though I don’t really adhere to them. That’s not what Christianity is all about, although I would have called myself a Christian and that’s what I would have said about myself.

This past six months or whatever it’s been, I’ve actually been a Christian to the degree where I live out my faith and I don’t just say that I am. I actually am. Does that make sense?

Yeah, I think so. What changed?

I’m a very intellectual person, so I need facts, I need information, I need all of it. Like I said, if I’m going to know something, I’m going to know everything about it. For me, it was more of an intellectual proof of Catholicism than a spiritual proof. The facts came first, then the faith followed.

What were some of those important facts?

I actually had a girlfriend who was Protestant, and she was the one who kind of berated me with all these questions. Unfortunately, I think she was trying to lead me the other way from Catholicism, but all the answers pointed back to Catholicism. First, I had to study Christ, so I read the entire Bible and I figured out who Jesus was and what his plan was. Then, I had to go back and review church history all the way from St. Peter — who was the first pope — to our pope today. I read the writings of a lot of the early church writers from St. Ignatius, St. Justin Martyr, St. Augusta — all these early church fathers and they all pointed to one thing, which was unity in the church, and that church being the Catholic Church. It was scripture combined with history, which is what Catholicism is.

Do you see your age as an advantage when it comes to connecting with the kids?

I think I have a huge advantage in that way, and I think I have a huge advantage as far as I have younger siblings in those age groups. So, I’m already a lot closer to a lot of those kids as far as (my brother) has friends over all the time. I know I’m 21, I’m young, but I graduated valedictorian (in high school) and I’m a very sort of heady person, so I feel I can hold my own.

When you look at your job, how do you define your role in the kids’ lives?

I think a big part of it is trying to be the best example you can be for the kids and to provide them with opportunities to serve. I know there’s a lot of kids out there who are chomping at the bit to do something good, but they don’t know what to do. They just need to be offered that opportunity. It needs to be a personal invitation. (My role) is a lot of personal invitation to come closer to the faith, participate in church events, donate your care to the church appropriately and all that, as well as being the best example (I) can be.

What do you hope to accomplish during your time as the youth minister?

I’d really like to see a lot of the youth get involved in the Mass more. As far as reading, greeting, usher, whatever it may be. That participation will help them stick to the faith later on. Currently, we have a fantastic senior class at Northeast Dubois High School, so I’d like to figure something out to do with them. They’re great, they’re the best class that’s gone through there in a long time, I think.

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