16 November 2023
Ahead of her ordination to the priesthood, the Reverend Candice Mitrousis can recall the moment she was called to service.
It was at the Community of the Holy Name retreat during a special event for ordinands.
“I was holding a plate of peas and looking at the ordinands, thinking that was never going to be me because I’d never wanted to be a vicar of a church,” Mrs Mitrousis said. “As clear as can be, I heard God say to me ‘It’s not about you. I have work for you to do.’”
Involved with children’s ministry for close to 10 years, Mrs Mitrousis believed she had a gift for it, and was prepared to remain a lay minister forever.
She grew up in a large extended family, and would often be found around the babies and younger cousins.
Mrs Mitrousis went on to immerse herself in roles that involved teaching, leading and encouraging children, including coaching them in callisthenics.
Through her lay children’s minister role at St Augustine’s Mentone, Mrs Mitrousis built good relationships with school chaplains at Mentone Grammar and Mentone Girls Grammar.
She enjoyed working among children so much, she resisted anything that would take her away from it.
But after realising that God’s work was not about what she wanted, Mrs Mitrousis went into the discernment process.
It dawned on her that being ordained meant she could still follow a calling to work with children.
Since being made a deacon in February, Mrs Mitrousis has been assistant chaplain at Yarra Valley Grammar three days a week, and a curate at St Stephen’s and St Mary’s Mount Waverley.
Around school children she regularly faced the kind of questions that occupied adults, Mrs Mitrousis said.
“From ‘Why does God allow bad things to happen?’ to ‘Who created God?’, the kids are trying to work out what life is about, and are very open to faith,” Mrs Mitrousis said.
Read more: ‘God will be there at the centre’: Fifteen new deacons ordained at St Paul’s Cathedral, Anglican Diocese of Melbourne 2023
She said her experience building sturdy children’s ministries at St Augustine’s gave her some solid ideas about how to spark the interest of younger children in the church.
For parishes struggling to get children through their doors, that perhaps could mean rethinking the need to have young people in the pews on a Sunday.
“Many are involved in different activities then, so you have to be okay with doing something other than a Sunday morning service. Could a breakfast club at a nearby primary school, work instead?” Mrs Mitrousis said.
She said she worried about the future of the Church, if young people dropped away.
But Mrs Mitrousis encouraged Anglicans to keep trying to reach them, because the faith they seeded in children just might fruit one day.
Intent on focussing on both parish ministry and school chaplaincy, she said she dreamed of someday seeing a church just for kids.
“It would be a space that stays a kids’ church all week, and where they were the focus and the programs were all about them,” Mrs Mitrousis said.
The Reverend Candice Mitrousis will be one of thirteen people ordained on 25 November at St Paul’s Cathedral.