By Michel Gresham
The Texas Catholic
Joshua Salinas understands the impact that good ministry can have on one’s faith life.
He’s witnessed it firsthand.
Salinas, who on Nov. 7 was named the new director of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry for the Diocese of Dallas, grew up in a Catholic home, but not one that made celebration of the faith a priority. Well, at least, not until his parents attended a retreat at their local parish, St. Joan of Arc in Weslaco.
“They both attended a retreat that impacted them greatly, and they came to realize they weren’t setting the example they wanted to for their children,” Salinas recalled. “From there, my Catholic faith became an integral part of my life.”
Now, in his new role, Salinas hopes to help others feel that same impact in their own lives.
“I truly welcome the opportunity to reignite and fan the flames of the faith with our youth and young adult demographics,” Salinas said. “I am inspired by the excitement for the Catholic faith that I have witnessed with the people in our diocese, from volunteers to staff to the people being impacted by the ministries. And even more so, I am excited about Bishop [Edward J.] Burns’ desire to accompany and support the youth and young adults in this diocese. It’s one of his biggest focuses, and having a bishop that understands how pivotal this ministry is truly excites me.”
In announcing the appointment, Diocese of Dallas Senior Director of Ministries Peter J. Ductrám said Salinas’s leadership, dedication, and support had been essential during transition of that office, which had been without a director since July 2021.
“I am confident that Josh will provide steady and organic leadership and oversight of the diocesan initiatives,” said Ductrám, explaining that as director Salinas is responsible for the implementation of pathways for comprehensive ministry that support the mission of the Church in Dallas. “The director exercises responsibility for the oversight and management of the daily activity of the diocesan services to our youth, young adults and campus ministries.”
While it wasn’t until high school that his parents came to embrace their faith, Salinas said he benefitted from a solid foundation in his own faith life thanks, in particular, to his grandmother, who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico.
“My grandmother had a very minimal education but what she did know was the faith,” he said. “Her relationship with the Catholic faith was very important to her. She instilled in us the tradition of the posadas, praying with the Virgin Mary, and asking for intercession, especially with Our Lady of Guadalupe. That very much laid the foundation for my faith growing up.”
Answering the call
Salinas began his work in ministry as a volunteer in the Diocese of Brownsville, eventually stepping into the role of director of religious education for the St. Joan of Arc parish. However, he had earned his undergraduate degree in English with a minor in philosophy from the University of Texas Pan American in Edinburgh, leading him into the education field, teaching for five years at high schools in Weslaco and Harlingen.
The call to serve ministry, though, never left him as he continued to volunteer for the Diocese of Brownsville, running sound and production for youth conferences as well as assisting parishes with catechetical retreats and other ministry work. That volunteer work led him to pursue a master’s degree in pastoral ministry with a concentration in youth ministry from the University of Dallas through a hybrid remote program.
“Initially, I wasn’t interested in getting a master’s degree, but one of the professors of that program — Elizabeth Madeo — told me I was an ‘ideal candidate’ based solely on the amount of volunteer work and training I was already doing for the Diocese of Brownsville and the national work I was doing,” he said.
Conversations Salinas had with people in the Diocese of Dallas led him to take a leap of faith, accepting a position as a ministry development strategist in April 2020, moving to a city where he knew very few people during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At that time, the Diocese of Dallas was looking for a strategist who understood ministry and understood the strategic process of it,” said Salinas, admitting he was intrigued by that kind of approach and methodology which was not offered in his home diocese. “I was drawn here from a desire to give to others what I’d never received.”
Salinas served in his role as a ministry development strategist until January 2022 when he was promoted to associate director of ministry development. He now embraces the opportunities his new director role offers.
“We are the boots on the ground in the pastoral approach,” Salinas said. “We offer the accompaniment and outreach to help the faithful fulfill the vision of the bishop.”
With 74 parishes and numerous other ministries, Salinas acknowledges there are challenges to face.
“One of the challenges is meeting the needs of each individual parish because every parish is unique and has a different approach toward ministry. They also come with different realities,” he explained. “We have to determine how we make sure we are supporting the culture and charism of each parish while also making sure that we are elevating what is currently there.”
To do so, Salinas said he’ll rely heavily on his most valuable asset: his team.
“They are the foundation of what we do,” he said. “If it wasn’t for them, more than half of the initiatives we have wouldn’t be possible to move forward.”
As for the mission and ministry that lies ahead?
“I’m excited,” Salinas said. “I look forward to helping others embrace God and connect with their faith.”