Penny Van Der Lee – Senior Youth Worker





1. Where did you grow up? 

 I grew up in a tiny but proud town called Stratford. Located on the west coast of the North Island in the heart of Taranaki, we have black sand beaches, rivers safe to swim in and a mountain that makes me feel like the movie character, Heidi, who hears the call from the ‘lady of the mountain’. Time is slower there so we have no traffic lights but we do have two roundabouts. Growing up in my family home, which is an historic building, I was always surrounded by animals, including a lamb which wore a nappy to watch TV on the couch, a goat that chased the cat with the family dog, and chickens that have feared for their adoptive duck babies when they learned their inherent love of water. There are six people in my family, but we always had extras, so meal times were lots of laughter but also squabbling with my siblings over who gets the wishbone from the roast chicken.  

2. What school did you go to? 

My primary school was St Joseph’s School, Stratford, and then in Year 9 I moved on to New Plymouth Girls High School. I also had a year at Stratford High School. At primary school, one of my favourite games was sprinting across the tennis courts so the non-existent aliens wouldn’t catch us. At high school I was really into debating, reading and anime. 

3.What super power would you most like to have and why? 

I don’t need to be a super hero for this but maybe like Bruce Wayne from Batman who is super super rich. With unlimited resources I could work to end world hunger and for everyone to have access to health care. The ability to be able to find lost socks or pens that I seem to be constantly loosing would be helpful too. 

4. What brought you to Logos?

Actually I knew someone who was already working here and he knew that I had done youth ministry work in Palmerston North during my undergrad study. He told me I should check out. I was in Australia at the time but looking to relocate back home to Aotearoa. I didn’t know much about the Marists but since working at Logos, I’ve come to appreciate the female presence in the Church. What keeps me here is the sense of acceptance from the community and the daily challenges that lead me to self discovery. It is a rare thing where your baptismal call and your mahi can overlap. 

5. What was the best advice you received as a young person? 

The greatest advice I received as a young person is that “sometimes Good can get in the way of Greatness”.
I have always be an okay student and had good relationships, but I can get very comfortable. It’s easy to not need to push myself or seek more when things are going well. There is always more to learn and if we settle for something or someone that’s ‘ok’ then we might be missing out on something truely joyful. 

6.What advice would you give to your younger self? 

“Enjoy your youth and don’t be in such a hurry to grow up. There are really awesome parts about being young like having heaps of energy, a willingness to take risks and try new things, keeping up with school friendships, a chance to make mistakes, and understand the latest technology. Don’t think you need to get older or wait until you can drive to be having a good time and contributing positively to your community and our society.”

7. What do you do to make sure you are being your best self? 

Going with my gut is a big way I can listen to my body and trust my instincts. It can be uncomfortable being the only one who doesn’t want or do this or likes doing that but every time I establish that boundary I grow stronger and learn more about what makes me who I am. Listening to my body also tells me when I need to rest and withdraw. I can be introverted and having that ‘me’ time ultimately makes me a more fun and bubbly person to be around when I’m in a group. I also try to say yes to new things and say yes to experiences that take me a little out of my comfort zone because it helps me grow. I know I am operating at my best self when I am able to listen to and accept criticism from people I trust and it doesn’t affect me in a negative way.