Priest was youth ministry pioneer

March 5, 2012

TORONTO – Father Tom McKillop, who dedicated much of his life to youth ministry, died in Toronto Feb. 15. He was 83.

"I was on fire with enthusiasm, I had finally found my niche," McKillop said about his work with youth.

He was a teacher in Toronto before deciding to enter the Paulist Fathers. But he was asked to leave as the order felt he worked too hard and was too intense.

He entered St. Augustine's Seminary and was ordained at the age of 36. It was at this point McKillop discovered his passion for youth ministry.

After a year of working with teens and young adults in a parish, he became director of the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO). Convinced the CYO should include a more apostolic component, he formed Youth Corps in 1966.

First based in parishes in the Toronto Archdiocese, the original Youth Corps team was made up of three men and three women who focused on community outreach.

Its founding vision was based on Jesus' communal vision in chapters 9 and 10 of Luke's Gospel: "Then Jesus called the 12 together . . . and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God."

In 2005, McKillop received the Order of Canada for his work in promoting social engagement among youth.