Q&A with Elliot Gualtiere
Membership Type: Associate Member
Organization and Position: Dean of Mission and Ministry ay Fairfield Prep (All boys – Catholic Jesuit High School)
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am beginning my 19th year at Fairfield Prep and serve the school community as their Dean of Mission and Ministry. As Dean of Mission and Ministry, I coordinate the adult faith formation programming which includes faculty/staff, parents, alumni, and the Board of Governors. I also oversee the Campus Ministry department which coordinates all the religious and spiritual life programming for students. I have worked in ministry for the past 25 years as a theology teacher, campus minister, and parish youth minister. I am also a certified Spiritual Director and received Spiritual Direction formation and certification through the Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality at Fairfield University. I live in Shelton, CT with my wife and children.
How has being a member of NFCYM helped you and your ministry to young people?
NFCYM and especially the network of campus ministers and religion teachers has been a source of support and encouragement. It has provided some wonderful networking opportunities as well as numerous program and event ideas that I can directly apply to my work in Ministry.
What is your relationship with NFCYM? What does accompaniment mean to you, and how has NFCYM accompanied you?
I am one of the co-moderators of the Ministry Network for Campus Ministers and Religion Teachers. To accompany someone is to be with, to journey with. NFCYM came along at a point in my ministry where I needed a group that was prayerful and supportive. I got more connected to NFCYM during the COVID pandemic shutdown. NFCYM was one of the organizations that accompanied me through this extremely challenging time.
Why ministry? Why do you do what you do?
Following graduating from Fordham University, I took a job as a parish youth minister in Brooklyn, NY. This position was part of a year–long service project. I received room and board, a small stipend, and health insurance. This turned into 2+ years and 3 summers of an experience that changed my life. I went back to Fordham to do my theology coursework. In 1999, I began my work in secondary schools as both a teacher and campus minister. Working with the young church and those who minister to them has been one of the greatest joys of my life. To walk and accompany young people and adults on their faith journey is a blessed vocation and I am so grateful to God.
If you could share one thing with other ministers, parents, families, and clergy, that you have learned throughout your experience ministering what would it be? It could be a moment, antidote, or words of wisdom:
Be gentle with yourself. We can put tremendous pressure on ourselves those of us who work in ministry but that only leads to burnout. We need to support one another and lean on each other. We must realize we are not alone in this work. Jesus sends his disciples out two by two so you always have companions in this journey.
NFCYM members can ask me about…
Whatever is on their mind as it relates to Campus and Youth Ministry
As NFCYM works to highlight the work of our Focus Areas, can you share how you have implemented them to help support your ministry? (Focus Areas: Essential Elements of Comprehensive Youth Ministry, Profession and Practice of a Youth Ministry Leader, Youth as Protagonists, Growth of Domestic Church)
I would say this in terms of the focus areas. We must highlight and continue to prop up our youth. We need to increase our programming for youth in our Dioceses (schools and parishes alike). One of the things I did during the pandemic shutdown as I know many of my colleagues did as well was adapt and re-vision much of our programming to be able to meet the needs of our young people. I was in awe of what I saw when I looked and noticed the level of innovation as it related to ministry programming. This past academic year as we returned to a more normal level of programming, I witnessed a growing desire and hunger from our young men at Fairfield prep for deeper faith and religious experiences. We saw a record number of retreat participants; more students wanting to engage in meaningful Christian Service; and saw more young people going to confession and engaging with the sacraments. We must continue to tap into this energy and enthusiasm.