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Our young God-bearers: Craig Gould

Director of Catholics on Call and Peacebuilders Initiative

February 4, 2014

 

The most important moments in life are often the ones we don’t see coming. For Craig Gould, CTU’s Director of Catholics on Call and the Peacebuilders Initiative, one of those moments was the passing of his father from a sudden heart attack when Craig was just 13 years old.

“I think I matured very quickly,” he said. “And it started me on a process of asking deeper questions. My friends would party on the weekends, but I thought all that stuff was kind of boring and meaningless. I was mindful of doing things with my life that were meaningful.”

During high school, Craig became involved in Young Life, a non-denominational Christian ministry that reaches out to adolescents, helping them to build meaningful relationships with each other and with God.

“Religion wasn’t super important to me growing up,” he said. “But participating in Young Life was the first time I was able to connect the deep meaning I was searching for to having a relationship with Jesus. I remember on a Young Life retreat, they had given us 20 minutes for silent reflection. I went on the roof of the building, and while reflecting I moved from a faith that was me-centered to a faith that was God-centered. I said to God, ‘What do you want me to do with my life?’”

Craig appreciated that the leaders of Young Life took a very relational approach. They got to know him and built a personal friendship with him, which helped him process his own feelings about faith.

In high school, Craig also started volunteering with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America organization, and was paired with a young man living in a small apartment in very low-income neighborhood with his parents and four siblings.

“My own family was pretty much ‘apple pie’: go to church, spend Sundays at grandma’s house,” Craig said. “Being a big brother was my first real glimpse into the difficulties people have and how growing up in a difficult situation can affect you as a person. It made me really sensitive to where people might be coming from and reminded me that everybody has a story.”

Craig earned a BA in Theology from Boston College, and then after a few years in the work force, went on to receive an MA in Theology from Saint John’s College in Minnesota.

At St. John’s, Craig was a graduate assistant for a youth outreach program very similar to CTU’s Peacebuilders Initiative, which engages high school students in peacebuilding activities. “There are only four Catholic programs like the Peacebuilders Initiative in the nation,” Craig said. “Because I knew my long-term goal was to direct a program like this, coming to CTU was an easy decision for me.”

Craig joined the CTU staff in January 2013, and said that his hope is that Peacebuilders participants come away with a real desire to create peace and the concrete skills and confidence to do so in their own communities. “I hope, through this program, they can recognize when things aren’t just and that they feel they have skills to help resolve the situation.”

Craig also directs Catholics on Call, which assists young adults who are in the process of discerning their vocation and call to service in the Church. He hopes Catholics on Call participants feel that they are listened to thoroughly until they can ask the right questions of themselves, and find the right answers from within their own lives.

“As the Director of these two programs, I would say the biggest challenges in my job are sustainability – how do we ensure these programs stay funded and can continue to grow in influence – and helping young people feel empowered.”

He is proud of Peacebuilders Initiative and Catholics on Call because of their ability to help young people engage alongside each other intellectually, physically, emotionally and spiritually. "We spend so much of our lives sharing only pieces of ourselves with others. But in these programs, for at least a few days, the participants engage with each other on all these different levels. That’s huge for young people.”

Craig wants to see the efforts of these programs reflected in a Church that considers young people full members who are listened to, included in decision-making and asked to lead. “We often talk about faith as being ‘handed down,’ but that is so stagnant,” he said. “Young people are God-bearers just as much as adults are.”

To learn more about Peacebuilders Initiative, click here.

To learn more about Catholics on Call, click here.