By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
The Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry will soon be under new leadership.
The office’s current director, Dr. Carole Goodwin, will retire later this month. And, Karl Dolson, the current associate director, will succeed her.
Goodwin has served the youth office for 22 years, including as director for the last 20 years.
Dolson has been associate director since 2013. Prior to his work on the archdiocesan level, he served as youth minister at St. Lawrence Church for six years.
In the last four years, Dolson said he has gained a broader perspective of what youth ministry looks like at the diocesan level under Goodwin’s leadership.
“At the parish level, you are concerned with your kids, your parents and your pastor. To have a bigger picture has allowed me to see how the Holy Spirit is moving on a broader scale,” he said in an interview last week.
Parish youth ministers and high school campus ministers alike describe Dolson as “a deeply faith-filled man.”
Mary Emrich, director of campus ministry at Trinity
High School, said Dolson is a source of support for campus and youth ministers.
“Karl is deeply faithful and has the ability to always bring a sense of peace and faith into his work,” she said.
Ellen Sprigg, youth minister and confirmation coordinator at the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Ky., said she values the knowledge Dolson brings to his work.
“I can pick up the phone and ask him a question and he is spot on. He gives you good advice and is very accessible,” Sprigg said.
Working with youth and youth ministers is something Dolson said he feels God is calling him to do.
“It is how I feel God calling me to live the Gospel and proclaim the Gospel message — by helping youth and youth ministers and drawing other people into a deeper relationship with Christ and his church.
“My faith gives me purpose, reason and sustainment to do what I do,” he said.
Dolson’s journey into youth ministry started when he was a cadet in the Air Force Academy. He and other cadets, including Father Jeffrey Shooner, vicar for priests for the archdiocese and pastor of two parishes, would get together for “peer ministry.”
While on active duty, Dolson served as a volunteer youth minister on three bases in Texas and California. Following his time in the Air Force, he returned to his home in Michigan and began to minister to youth on a full-time basis.
Shortly before Father Shooner’s ordination in 2004, the two reconnected and reminisced about their peer ministry.
At Father Shooner’s urging, Dolson accepted an invitation to move to Louisville and work at St. Lawrence, where the priest was serving as pastor.
“Fifteen years after we met, he was my pastor and I was his youth minister. We were in the same squadron and fellow cadets. He was significant in my faith journey,” Dolson said of Father Shooner.
As a youth minister at St. Lawrence, Dolson said he was encouraged and supported by the archdiocese’s then-associate director Benedictine Sister Traci Stutz.
“She was really helpful to me and other youth ministers,” he said.
Since coming to the archdiocesan office, Dolson said he has tried to incorporate some of the same responsive and pastoral care he received as a parish youth minister.
“I benefitted personally from that care and felt I could bring that to other youth ministers,” he said.
Now in his new role as director, he said his vision is that the “Holy Spirit would start a fire in parishes, diocese, families, schools and in the hearts and minds of young people.”
He said he also thinks pastoral care for youth and parish youth ministers is “critical” and wants to do what
he can to support them.
“I want to be a strong advocate for them and for more parishes to invest in the lives of our young people, not necessarily in a monetary sense,” he said.
He said this isn’t a call for parishes to introduce more programs but rather “to be more intentional and to meet the real needs of young people, not the perceived needs.”
“I’m eager to see where the Holy Spirit takes us,” he said.
He noted the support and encouragement he has received from Goodwin and said he’s learned a great deal from his time working with her.
“Thousands of kids and young adults have been impacted in some way by her work. She sees the value that youth have and that the church has added value when young people are present,” he said.
He called Goodwin a “tireless advocate” for Catholic youth in central Kentucky.
“She is a huge advocate for young people from every walk of life, every culture that is present in the archdiocese,” he said.
He and his wife, Jennifer, have been married for 18 years and have six children: Michael, 15; Aidan, 13; Luke, 11; Grace, 9; Audrey, 6; and Isaac, 4. They are parishioners of St. Lawrence.