Prior Lake woman receiving Franciscan International Award

| Kristi Anderson | May 9, 2013 | 0 Comments
Gina Tupy

Gina Tupy

Gina Tupy, director of confirmation and senior high youth ministry at St. Michael in Prior Lake, is receiving the Franciscan International Award May 9 at the Wilds Golf Club for inspiring, motivating and evangelizing young people.

The award, now in its 55th year, honors individuals or organizations that demonstrate the values and ideals of St. Francis of Assisi.

Thirty-two years ago, Tupy was working at a hair salon she still owns, but Father Rick Banker said God had other plans for her.

“Father Rick decided I should become a youth minister,” she said. “He told me, ‘Gina, God placed love in your heart for young people and you must use it.’ I told him that I was glad that God called him to the priesthood but he also could have been a lawyer because he would never have lost a case!”

Tupy feels her spiritual life changed and she became motivated to share her faith after attending a Cursillo retreat.

“My life was really touched that weekend,” she shared. “God seemed far away, but that weekend I came to know him in a personal way.”

Her four sons attended TEC retreats and had similar experiences. She wanted others to have the same opportunities to know Christ.

“I saw something good happening and wanted to bring retreat experiences like these to St. Michael’s,” she said. “Now we have built a huge program here.”

Tupy and her partner in ministry, Pat Millea, provide a variety of opportunities for the young people in their parish, including participation in the National Catholic Youth Conference, Catholic HEART Work Camps, QUEST retreats and, at the request of the youth, parent retreats that mimic the QUEST experience.

“It is so hard for kids to set aside time for faith in busy lives,” she said. “Everyone wants the best of them — their coaches, their teachers, parents, employers. That is why retreat settings work well. It is time set aside with no other requests but to be in the presence of Christ.”

Holy Grounds

An important part of Tupy’s accomplishments includes the creation of a coffee house where young people can “hang out.”

“I knew that we needed a youth room,” she explained. “We were allowed some space in the parish office where we created a coffee house called Holy Grounds.”

It opened in 2000 and has continued to run thanks to generous donors. Renovations are currently under way.

“It has been a fantastic place for the youth to meet,” she said. “The kids want to share what they learn with their friends, and Holy Grounds provides the time and space to do that. They gather ideas here and take them into their schools. I am so proud of them.”

Another unique experience Tupy and Millea designed is an annual event called, “Respect your Elders.”

“At this event, the confirmation students are paired up for an afternoon and meal with the ‘golden agers’ of the parish,” she said. “It is a special thank you to those who pass the faith down to the young people — a nice way to share amazing stories with each other.”

Following the Gospel

The award ceremony will seat about 400 guests to honor past and present recipients and also bring awareness to the Franciscan Retreats and Spirituality Center, who developed this award.

Franciscan Father Camillus Scott, who worked with Tupy over the years, will travel from Mishawaka, Ind., to present the award.

“I have such great respect for what Gina has done,” he said. “Her interaction with the youth and the excitement for life that she communicates with them shows them how to be a living example of what it means to follow the Gospel. She incorporates all kinds of activities that help all of society, not just the Catholic Church.”

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