STONY PLAIN – As a kid, Mike Landry thought his family was amazing. Highlights include the way the house would smell when his mom baked bread, camping with his dad, and going to Oilers games and family vacations to the East Coast.
"I prayed when I was in trouble or when someone I loved was sick, but God was no different to me than a divine Santa Claus," recalled Landry, a long-time parish youth minister and now a school chaplain with Evergreen Catholic Schools.
He grew up in a Catholic home, went to a Catholic school and served as an altar boy.
"One of the most meaningful things for me, though, was the way my older brother used to look out for me." Family made Landry feel safe, valued and loved.
But in an April 6 talk at Ephphatha House, he recalled that his family eventually came apart and he felt a lot less secure.
So he looked for somewhere to belong. His faith was failing. When he met his first parish youth minister in 1995, Landry saw a glimpse of the love and care his family had given him for so much of his life and which he desperately missed.
He decided to get involved and, for the next three and a half years, he embarked on a journey that included retreats, youth nights, summer camps and quiet times of prayer in his room. He went from knowing about God to coming to know God as a person, a companion and a friend.
In this newfound relationship with God, Landry rediscovered the best things his family had given him.
After graduating, he went to Bible school to firm up this faith. There he developed a prayer life and learned to talk and listen to Jesus, who, "without using words, expressed to me how much he loved me."
The 14 years since have been an incredible adventure for Landry. He has had the opportunity to serve God on traveling retreat teams, running summer camps and retreat teams, as a parish youth minister and now in his role as a school chaplain.
Nearly eight years ago he married Jennifer and they have three children - Emily, 6, Timothy, 4, and Catherine, one - which he described as "a joy and a blessing."
"This Church has provided for me some of the security I felt as a child, because in many ways it is like a family," Landry said. "I have learned from her ways to grow closer to God, how to live as a child of God, and the breadth and depth of my Catholic faith."
Jennifer Landry grew up in a family where faith was at the centre. After college she served for years in a travelling youth ministry team that gave retreats in schools and parishes across the United States.
Now that she is no longer active as a youth minister, she focuses most of her energies on her marriage, providing love and education to her children.
"That's something I feel very strongly about for our kids, to teach them how to receive love from God and how to love others," she said.
"My parents taught me that through their life of faith and through their service to us and through their prayer and I want to do that for my kids as well."