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How Do You Change the World? One Life at a Time

Updated on April 12, 2019

The dictionary defines “altruistic” as being “unselfishly concerned for or devoted to the welfare of others.” I define it as Joy Millio.

For a future Youth Minister, Joy’s early life was one of pious. Originally from St. Joseph’s Church, she studied long hours through the PFI (Pastoral Formation Institute) and became a member of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church where she taught religious education for 12 years.

One day during a meeting in the Parish Council, a discussion arose about creating a youth group. For this church, there has been a history of poorly run youth ministries. The previous youth group started strong but later tumbled after only a year. Why did this happen? They did not integrate middle schoolers into the program.

Joy sought to fix this issue by which she decided to have meetings on Friday nights. Juliet(Joy’s daughter) always starts off the meeting with a prayer. She lives by a motto to get through the meeting: “Kids need to be themselves, and love themselves, the way God loves them.”

Michael (Joy’s son) later leads the meeting, and he always has a good time. Making the kids laugh, he’s the ultimate goofball, but he does have a serious side to himself. Whenever Joy has difficulty getting the kids’ attention all Michael has to say is “YO” and they respond by listening.

For the first Friday night that had only 12 people showing up most would be pessimistic about the future, but not Joy, she saw hope. Angie, one of the kids at the meeting, always says, ”Thank you I had such a great time”. May not be a lot but it means a lot to Joy.

What follows is a plethora of meetings that includes Halloween parties, talent nights, and game show nights, that are all planned by Joy. Having fun as the focus attracts any kid to join. Likewise, Michael knew about the importance of fun, “It’s a weekend and if it’s even remotely educational then I wouldn’t want to go.”

Her proudest moments are when the 12th graders act as role models for the 6th graders; they form their own separate cliques, but the group games ultimately bring them together.


“When you come here you don’t make fun of anyone, you don’t say anything bad about anyone whether in here or out here. In here I want everyone to feel safe.”


Joy may have had a decent start ministering, but she never realized the impact she can make. One day she received an email. A parent wrote about how her kid was nervous to join, but now she found a home, “My kids are super shy, they didn’t want kids to bully them here.” One of them had no friends. She was alone and desperate to have human contact, but now because of Joy she goes to parties and is part of a social group.

One day Joy noticed something strange about one of her kids. Their refusal to eat certain foods, their shyness of eating around others, and the extreme concern with their body size. Joy knew something was not right here. It all clicked when she found out that the girl went to the hospital, that she had an eating disorder.


“If you saw her at her worse it was terrifying.”


Joy may have had a decent start ministering, but she never realized the impact she can make. One day she received an email. A parent wrote about how her kid was nervous to join, but now she found a home, “My kids are super shy, they didn’t want kids to bully them here.” One of them had no friends. She was alone and desperate to have human contact, but now because of Joy she goes to parties and is part of a social group.

One day Joy noticed something strange about one of her kids. Their refusal to eat certain foods, their shyness of eating around others, and the extreme concern with their body size. Joy knew something was not right here. It all clicked when she found out that the girl went to the hospital, that she had an eating disorder.


“If you saw her at her worse it was terrifying.”

How did the other kids react to this? They reacted by writing letters to her, wishing that she would get better and come back soon and when she did come back there was nothing but a positive atmosphere. Kids that didn’t even spoke to her before connected with her.

This is just one story of the lives that were changed by Joy’s youth group. The diversity of people helps groups grow, by example, this youth group has both gay people and Jewish people believe it or not. The first objective was to create an open and welcoming environment for kids, not to promote religion.


“You can't call yourself a Christian and then judge somebody, Jesus hung with the sinners.”


Many of the kids know about the events, but few know about the hard work that Joy and her team puts into the planning and developing each Friday night special.

Money is an issue for many people, as well as for youth groups, but Joy finds ways to work around it. Fundraisers, such as candle making and bakes sales, allows Joy to have events like movie nights or escape rooms.

Moreover, she knows how to create a challenging system. The kids may participate in giving up something they love for Lent in return for points, or they take an active role in a skit and receive points. These points may later be cashed in for a $100 gift card. Joy has her work cut out for her.

Game ideas is also an issue Joy tackles; when she researches for these games, she mainly finds corny ones.

When you’re out there explaining the game, you sometimes feel that it’s going to bomb. Sometimes it does, but other times you discover those rare gems.


“Sometimes you find a game that’s very complicated and you realize that you don’t even know the rules when you’re explaining it."


For all of the highs and lows in youth ministry, Joy feels like there is still more to do. In January, New York lawmakers authorized a law to expands access to abortions. Joy saw an opportunity to express her views so she has been taking part in “the 40 days for life”: a campaign against abortions which advocates its members to pray in front of abortion clinics. Joy has seen it all, middle fingers and thumbs up, but it takes guts to express your views when everyone around is constantly judging.

She now plans to lead a March for Life in Albany this coming June. With all of the chaos happening in our world it is a blessing to know that people like Joy are out there enforcing God's work. For someone who stands up for the unborn and protects our youth, she has earned our respect.


“In this day in age with people saying ‘no god, no religion, religion is bad’, you have to prove it’s good, you can’t just say it’s good”.

© 2019 Steven A Hall

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    • StevenHall4646 profile imageAUTHOR

      Steven A Hall 

      12 months ago from Holbrook

      Thank you Carlos!

    • profile image

      Carlos 

      12 months ago

      Great article! Amazing to see the love that Joy gives to our youth minister. May God continue blessing and guiding her in her journey. God bless

    • StevenHall4646 profile imageAUTHOR

      Steven A Hall 

      12 months ago from Holbrook

      Thank you Clara!

    • profile image

      Clara Victoria, 

      12 months ago

      What a great article you wrote Steven, Congratulations,! God bless

    • StevenHall4646 profile imageAUTHOR

      Steven A Hall 

      12 months ago from Holbrook

      Thank you Elizabeth!

    • profile image

      Elizabeth 

      12 months ago

      Excellent post Steven, May God continue blessings people like joy. Thank you for sharing.

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