By Celine Klosterman
Fewer than 20 minutes changed the direction of Vince Nims’ life.
As a musician, singer and a youth minister at a California parish, he took a group of teenagers to World Youth Day in France in 1997. During some free time, the guitarist spontaneously hopped onto a stage and performed a few songs for a nearby crowd that included U.S. directors of diocesan youth ministry. “Afterwards, they started handing me their business cards and saying they’d call me when they got home,” Nims recalled.
And they did. Since 1998, he’s accepted invitations to present at youth rallies, conferences, young adult gatherings, faith formation events and school activities and offer parish concerts throughout the country. Doing so is now his full-time ministry.
“When I started in youth ministry, if you would’ve asked me if I’d someday be traveling the country, I’d have said, ‘Absolutely not.’ But I really think God calls us where he wants us to be. So that’s what I try to be loyal to.”
He hopes to inspire students to be loyal to Jesus, too, when he serves as keynote presenter for the Diocese of Davenport’s junior high youth rally in Iowa City next month. “I try to bring a bold expression of faith and joy and let the Lord work through me in a creative, fun way. I hope that draws students to Christ and to a deeper love for the Church. Hopefully they’ll walk away with a sense of solidarity with God’s people, and gain an understanding that faith is not a solo experience.”
Other Catholics’ influence and example helped draw Nims to youth ministry. Beginning in his sophomore year in high school, he was deeply involved in a youth program where the Holy Spirit’s presence seemed obvious. “I think I was really called out by my youth ministers. They were really good at affirming the gifts of students and empowering us.” One youth leader even paid for him to take a few guitar lessons, he recalled. “It was a good environment to hear God’s call.”
The Diocese of Oakland, Calif., reached out well to young people and offered great retreat opportunities, he recalled. It provided the foundation for Nims to go on to major in religious studies at Saint Mary’s College of California, where faculty and campus ministers helped him continue to grow in faith.
Since graduating, he has earned a master’s degree in theological studies from the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif. His 21 years in full-time ministry have included serving as a diocesan director of youth and young adult ministry and as an official World Youth Day musician.
Even in non-ministerial settings, God can create sacred space, Nims noted. He recalled a time on a passenger railway when a grandmotherly woman wearing a cross made his daughter “feel like a million bucks” by chatting with her and asking for the child’s autograph. “I feel like the Lord blessed us in that moment. I encourage youths to keep their own eyes and hearts open all the time, so they’re aware when God is doing something good.”
He and his wife Keri gave their son Toby Liam, who was born six weeks ago, a name that reflects the Lord’s righteousness: “Tobias means ‘God is good’ and Liam means ‘God is great,’” Nims said.
It’s hard to leave family to travel the nation, the husband and father said.
“It is a sacrifice. But I understand the benefit of it. I can go someplace as a complete stranger, but leave feeling like it was home. The relationships I make across the country are really wonderful. God always sustains me in some way…. I am brought to peace in what I do because I feel like it’s what God wants. Even in my most exhausted moment, I can’t wait to do it again.”
Junior high rally details
The Davenport Diocese invites students to the junior high youth rally, “Heaven: Planted in Our Hearts,” on Sunday, March 25, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Regina Catholic Education Center in Iowa City.
Keynoter will be musician and storyteller Vince Nims of California. The day will include workshops, music from Leap of Faith Ministries, Mass with Bishop Martin Amos, prayer, a skit by the Diocesan Youth Ministry Committee, lunch, time to dance and fellowship.
For more information, visit www.davenportyouth.org or contact your parish’s youth leader.