|Robert Strobel is the new associate director of the diocesan Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Nashville. Photo by Andy Telli
As a student at Pope John Paul II High School in Hendersonville, Robert Strobel was actively involved in events offered by the CYO office in the Diocese of Nashville. Participating in SEARCH and Immersion retreats, Youth Leadership Workshop, the Diocesan Youth Council, and other events played an integral role in his faith development as a teenager, and he wanted to give back as an adult.
So he kept volunteering with CYO activities after he graduated from JPII in 2007 and started studying theology at Aquinas College.
Now, his involvement will be full-time as he takes on the position of Associate Director of the diocesan Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry. He started in October after former Associate Director Brandon Quigley left to pursue a career in health care administration.
“Answering this call is an homage and a thank you to all those people who worked hard to make this office so special to me and an acceptance of the challenge to make sure every young person in our diocese is given the opportunity to experience their faith in a personal, life-changing way,” Strobel said.
Strobel’s teen years revolved around school, family and friends, while trying to maintain a relationship with Jesus. The CYO helped him tremendously with regards to his faith life. “I think the ages of 12-18 are among the most hectic times in everyone’s life,” Strobel said. “Thinking back to that age, I was concerned with having fun with friends, having a girlfriend, having time with my family, having time with anyone but my family, going on trips, going to school activities, doing homework, etc.
“On top of all that, I knew I had to have a personal relationship with Christ, and if I’d not had a number of incredible experiences because of the hard work of those who were in this office at the time, I don’t think I would’ve had as easy a time as I did with that,” Strobel said.
His involvement with local CYO activities was so influential during his high school years that it affected his decision to attend Aquinas College and major in theology. “A lot of things went into the choice to stay home and go to Aquinas,” Strobel said. “Part of that was the benefit of staying in tune with the diocese and the Youth Office, but also the state school I was considering lost half my paperwork. That was probably one of the best things that could have happened to me.”
He also credits the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia at Aquinas in influencing his decision to study theology. “It’s hard to not feel joy around the Dominican sisters. They were a huge chunk of the reason I couldn’t bring myself to transfer after my first year as I had originally planned,” he explained.
“Much like my decision to stay, the decision to get my degree in theology just seemed right once I started,” Strobel said. As you dig deeper and deeper into St. Thomas and the Catechism, everything about your faith takes that much more thought, and becomes that much more beautiful.”
After graduating from Aquinas in 2012, he was unable to pursue a full-time ministry position, but still volunteered for CYO events. “I volunteered for the office retreats and March for Life trip to (Washington, D.C.) while maintaining different jobs, including management positions for a valet company and restaurant and most recently a contractor for a health provider network.
“I tried my best to get to any diocesan event I could because I knew how important this office was to me. At one point I’d participated in four or five SEARCH weekends in a year,” Strobel said.
With taking on new roles as a husband and now soon-to-be first time father, he thought he would be stuck in the corporate world while doing ministry part time. But God’s timing worked out well for him.
“I had been praying for a new ministry opportunity and this one fell into place,” he said. “In early October, Youth and Young Adult Director Bill Staley reached out to me with the prospect of working together. We had always discussed how great an opportunity it would be for me to serve in a youth ministry position, but the right opportunity had not presented itself until Brandon announced his departure. Brandon was an excellent addition to this office for two years, so his departure was surprising to me personally, but it opened the right door at the right time, and I’m honored to be chosen to fill in where he left off.”
The biggest challenge he and Staley have in the coming years is ministering to the large influx of Catholic families moving to Middle Tennessee.
“We both want to ensure first we are serving the youth and young adults of our diocese as efficiently as possible,” Strobel said. “Because we are growing so much as a city and a diocese, I’ve seen just in visiting other churches over the last few years that we have great leadership already in most of our parishes. We want to continue to be a resource for all of the diocese and assist in serving in each parish.
“On top of that, our office has some great retreats already in place. Our SEARCH weekends are typically always filled with waiting lists. So our challenge is finding out what the next opportunity to offer the young people in our diocese is,” he said.
He is most looking forward to providing teens opportunities to experience meaningful encounters with Jesus, just as the CYO did for him when he was younger.
“Whenever I participated with this office before accepting this position, I was always given a usually unintentional but profound gift from those I’m serving. Whether it was a Mass said for me, or the encouragement of 110 teens rushing to the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I have on countless occasions been given a small blessing, or reminder of Christ’s joy, or just the hope that everything will be OK from someone who I was giving my time to. I can’t wait to experience that time and time again, and more importantly, give those same gifts back.
“I look forward to making a positive relationship with those I am serving and hopefully be the steward I am called to be.”