Dynamic Irishman Mark Dunwoody of County Cork, Ireland, will soon leave the Emerald Isle for Quebec and the position of youth ministry consultant to the diocese of Montreal. A native of Antrim in Northern Ireland, Dunwoody has served for the past six years as youth officer for the diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross in Eire. Now he’s more than ready to tackle the rigours of youth ministry in a cold climate.
“The presenting challenges are mostly the same for every church community in most parts of the world, in that we now have to earn a right to be heard in today’s society,” Dunwoody says. “Young people-and the not so young!- are suspicious of any type of institution. They come to their own truths based on the many sources of information they can easily access through the online world.”
Such challenges, however, are not insurmountable, he adds, “if we listen, respond and trust the communities in which we are serving.”
A former chef and businessman, Dunwoody was youth director at Saint John and Saint Philip International Church of The Hague in The Netherlands. Before that, he spent 17 years in youth work in Northern Ireland as a youth leader and scoutmaster. Dunwoody also has extensive experience in reconciliation work and has implemented reconciliation programs in Northern Ireland, Poland and Germany.
In 2007 he set up an international summer project for teenagers and took part in a symposium in The Netherlands on empowering youth in a post-conflict society. He has led young adults to Luweero, Uganda, to implement a building project at a local school. Currently, he is a member of a European group looking at issues of youth ministry.
What prompted Dunwoody to leave the mists of Ireland for the snows of Montreal? “My discussions with the folk in the diocese impressed me, as they have a vision and a plan,” he says. “Those I met during my visit there clearly want to listen, respond and take risks to serve the needs of communities in the diocese.”
In his view, change can help you find your right direction. “It’s always convenient, when faced with all the societal changes going on around us, to hit the default button and continue doing the same things we’ve always done,” says Dunwoody. “But there’s an old saying that if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never know if you’ve got there!”
Dunwoody will arrive in Montreal in May, followed in July by his wife, Diane, and his three sons, Gareth, Ricky and Dylan. “We, as a family, really enjoyed the vibe in Montreal on a recent visit, and as we love to travel, Montreal will be a good base from which to see the rest of Canada,” he says.