Brian Ouellette, our new Coordinator of Young Adult Ministry and Faith Formation, officially assumed his new position this week and was generous enough to offer me a few minutes of his time. See our conversation below:
BR: First things first, how does it feel to be replacing the famed Michelle Miller?
BO: I am humbled to be replacing Michelle, although I am doubtful that she can ever be replaced. I will strive to continue the good work she began.
BR: You’re from Texas originally, right?
BO: I lived in Texas, both Dallas and Houston, from 1982-2016. I was born in Washington, D.C. and lived there until 1972, when we moved to Seaford, Virginia near Yorktown and then moved to Dallas, Texas in 1982.
BR: You previously worked in a school setting. How do you think that’ll translate to working at St. Joe’s?
BO: My Catholic School experience will translate well to working at St. Joe’s because my career has been devoted to sharing the Catholic faith and incorporating Catholic Social teachings into everyday life. Being able to work at St. Joe’s allows me to continue sharing the Catholic faith with the advantage of being deeply entrenched in the work of social justice.
BR: What brought you to Ottawa? Was the change difficult?
BO: It is a cliché, but love brought me to Ottawa. After three years of long-distance dating, we chose to get married last July. The difficult part of the move was leaving my 20-year-old daughter and all of my colleagues at my old school. My daughter has visited three times and we Facetime frequently, so we remain in constant contact. Ottawa is such a beautiful city and I fell in love with it during my first visit. The people are friendly and the city reminds me of a European city, with it’s cafes, parks, and beautiful architecture. Coming from Texas, many thought I would not like the winter, but I love cold weather. It’s something we rarely experienced in Texas. The snow was wonderful this past winter and the winter activities, from skating on the canal to Winterlude to the activities in the Byward Market made the winter truly something I always thought winter should be. Now, ask me again next year and see if my “love” of winter is as strong.
BR: You’re not only new to Ottawa, but you’re also new to the parish community. What drew you to St. Joe’s?
BO: I had been looking for a parish that was welcoming, inclusive, and social justice minded and not having any luck. I was talking to Erin Anderson regarding a teaching position, and shared my difficulty in finding a parish. She shared with me all that St. Joe’s has to offer and I chose to attend for my first time on Palm Sunday of this year. I felt welcomed by those around me who introduced themselves as well as Fr. Richard, who came by and welcomed me. I had tears in my eyes as I went up to receive communion because, for the first time in a long time, I felt that I belonged. Ever since that first Mass, I have come to love St. Joe’s even more, from the beautiful music to the plethora of social justice activities sponsored by the parish.
BR: Are there any areas or projects you’re most looking forward to dive into?
BO: I am really looking forward to finding ways to connect with young adults through technology, whether that is a blog, podcasts, twitter, Facebook, or the development of an app for the young adult community that would include all of the above. Although having regular meeting times is important, being able to access resources at any time anywhere is important to young adults today. It will be a learning experience for myself, one I am looking forward to.
BR: That sounds like a great idea. What are you doing when you’re not in the office? Have explored much of Ottawa yet?
BO: I love to walk, whether along the canal, the river, or in a park, and now, to work. I also love to cook and bake because seeing people gather for a good meal and conversation is so rewarding. I love to go to craft shows, antique shows, or just walk through neighbourhoods browsing through the shops. I also enjoy volunteering and look forward to doing more of that at St. Joe’s.
BR: Any favourite spots or activities?
BO: I really like good coffee, so sitting in a coffee shop, working on a crossword or reading is a favourite place I like to be. I also like sitting along the river, the canal, or the lake and enjoying the scenery. I like U.S. Football, but fell in love with Canadian Football because it is much more fast-paced and exciting. It’s funny that I had to move to Ottawa to experience a football team winning a championship. I have been to a Senator’s game and enjoyed it, but have a lot more to learn about hockey. Curling has been the surprise sport that I have really come to enjoy and I look forward to experiencing a curling match in person one day. I have skated on the canal, but need to take lessons this winter to get better. I have taken a bike ride along the canal on Sundays and enjoyed that, although that was three years ago and I need to do it again.
BR: I think Ottawa is a prime spot for all of those things. Lastly, what would our parishioners be most surprised to know about you?
BO: The parishioners may be most surprised to learn that I was in the seminary studying for the Diocesan Priesthood from 1985-1990. I had two years before ordination when I chose to leave because I did not truly feel that God was calling me to priesthood – it was then that I felt called to education in the Catholic Schools and never regretted my decision, although I do find myself writing homilies in my head during Mass.
BR: That skill will definitely serve you well in this position. I’ll keep that in mind if Fr. Richard ever has writer’s block.
BO: I’d be happy to help!
BR: Thanks for taking the time to chat, Brian. I’ll let you get back work.
BO: It was my pleasure!
I learned a lot about Brian through our chat and I hope you did too. Stepping into a new role, at a new parish, in a new city would pose a challenge for almost anyone, but I believe Brian’s experience and passion for his faith make him an exception. With plenty of ideas and a willingness to learn, Brian brings plenty to the table and St. Joe’s is lucky to have him on board. So, if you happen to spot Brian in the office, at Mass, or out and about exploring his new home, be sure to say hello and welcome him to the community.