30 under 31: Young adult Catholics engaged in the life of the Church

| Celia Kennedy | October 11, 2018 | 0 Comments

At the opening of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment, Pope Francis said that young people’s contributions to the three-week synod’s preparations showed that they have “wagered that it is worth the effort to feel part of the Church or to enter into dialogue with her; worth the effort to have the Church as a mother, as a teacher, as a home, as a family, and, despite human weaknesses and difficulties, [that it is] capable of radiating and conveying Christ’s timeless message.”

He continued, “Our responsibility here at the Synod is not to undermine them, but rather to show that they are right to wager [that] it truly is worth the effort, it is not a waste of time!”

In this issue, The Catholic Spirit features 30 young adults in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis who have “wagered” to be part of the life of the Church in various ways, from witnessing to the faith in their workplaces to launching new ministries to meet the unique needs of their peers. These young adults, all age 31 and under, are just a selection of the local young adults who are dedicated Catholics and motivated by their faith to do good in the world. Their profiles were written by Celia Kennedy, a Catholic Spirit summer intern, and members of The Catholic Spirit staff. Photos were provided.

— The Catholic Spirit


Karina Avila
Age 25
Parish St. Peter, Mendota
Occupation NET Ministries team supervisor

In her fourth year with NET Ministries in West St. Paul, Karina Avila has developed the heart of a missionary. After spending her first two years traveling the country and leading NET youth retreats, Avila settled in West St. Paul to train and supervise the new teams with their missions. Avila is also involved with Latino ministry. Along with other representatives of the archdiocese, she recently attended the Fifth Encuentro, or V Encuentro, national conference in Grapevine, Texas, to advocate for local Latino Catholics on a larger scale and to be a liaison for NET Ministries. Avila hopes to encourage young adults in the desire to become saints, and to experience the same joy that she has found in her relationship with Jesus.

Claudia Bauer
Age 29
Parish St. Dominic, Northfield
Occupation Latino youth coordinator, archdiocesan Office of Latino Ministry

The Latino youth coordinator for the archdiocese, Claudia Bauer has a lot of experience working with Catholic young adults. Also the coordinator of catechesis for Hispanic/Latino families at St. Dominic Church, her dedication to forming the future generation of Catholics runs deep. In her work at St. Dominic, Bauer leads the youth group and teaches faith formation to the teens. “I can only hope to be a little candle bringing Christ’s light into the darkness we are often surrounded by and to help light the way for our youth to be able to know, love and serve Christ,” she said. “I want to live in a way that will help them know how loved they are by the Father.”

Kristi Beaudry
Age 26
Parish Sts. Peter and Paul, Loretto, and St. Albert, Albertville
Occupation Marketing and communications

In 2015, Kristi Beaudry and a friend were looking to gather young adults together to discuss hot topic issues. They began with four people, and now the organization, “Vigilate Mecum” — or “Keep Watch with Me” — has monthly meetings of 80 to 100 Catholic and non-Catholic young adults at Sts. Peter and Paul, where they gather to engage tough faith discussions in an open environment. Beaudry works with St. Paul-based Spare Key, a nonprofit that supports families with children in need of medical assistance. “My faith has ingrained in me a knowledge and appreciation for the dignity of every person,” she said. “How I interact with others and why I work hard directly stems from my belief that each person deserves my respect and God’s love, and that God has given me this position in the world to share that love.”

Maggee Becker
Age 22
Parish St. Wenceslaus, New Prague
Occupation Student, youth minister

Entering her senior year at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Maggee Becker has a lot on her plate. A full-time student in Catholic Studies and English, with a minor in education, Becker focuses much of her energy on seeking Christ in the classroom. Becker also devotes herself to young adults and ministry, working part-time as a youth minister at St. Wenceslaus and, during the summer, leading youth retreats with Bloomington-based Partnership for Youth. Becker said she is passionate about her work because “many young adults are thirsty for the truth and are excited to share their faith.” She added, “I know that the Lord is calling me here. I want to please him, and as long as I am pursuing a life in ministry and striving after him, I know I am where he wants me right now.”

Terese Bordeau
Age 27
Parish Our Lady of Lourdes, Minneapolis
Occupation Ramsey County Public Health; NFP instructor

Terese Bordeau said her Catholic faith “calms yet invigorates” her as she navigates local government as part of her daytime job with Ramsey County Public Health, and in the evenings when she teaches the Creighton Model FertilityCare System, a method of natural family planning. She also volunteers at Our Lady of Lourdes. “Simply put, I just really enjoy Lourdes. I try to volunteer at events and initiatives when I can, and make sure to connect with those parishioners I have come to truly enjoy over the years,” she said. “You might find me teaching NFP on Tuesday evenings in the parish house or greeting with my husband at 7 p.m. Mass.” She advises her Church-skeptical peers that “the Church is probably more than you’re perceiving it to be.” She said of millennial Catholics, “We’re seeking God’s grace just like anyone else, even if we’re not aware of it quite yet. Behind the screens, craft beers and cuffed pants, we are simply looking for the Church to lead us, humbly and purely, and to prepare us to lead the Church in the future.”

James Broberg
Age 29
Parish St. John the Baptist Byzantine, Minneapolis
Occupation Math and science teacher

A Byzantine Catholic, James Broberg has a unique view of Catholicism in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Both a math and science teacher at Chesterton Academy in Edina, Broberg introduces his students to new parts of the Church by consecrating each class with prayers from the Divine Liturgy and teaching students about topics important to Eastern-rite Catholicism, including iconography and the East-West Schism of 1054. Broberg seeks to highlight the care of young adults for social justice and equality, and the interconnectedness of that desire with a “deep spiritual hunger for prayer, for sacredness and for theological depth.”

Bridget and David Busacker
Ages 26 and 25
Parish St. Mark, St. Paul
Occupations Health educator; 3D printing engineer

Bridget and David Busacker are deeply engaged in their parish, where they’ve spearheaded young adult events and joined the Catholic Advance Movement, a lay movement associated with Pro Ecclesia Sancta, a religious community that serves St. Mark. Along with another couple, they lead a group for newlyweds to offer support and encouragement in the spiritual and practical aspects of marriage. Among their many faith-focused projects, the Busackers created “The Beautiful Wounds” website to curate “stories that are devoted to revealing and appreciating beauty in our everyday lives,” Bridget said. “We explore and uncover how beauty ‘wounds’ our hearts and speaks to the deep desires that illuminate the very existence and purpose of the human person.” She added, “We want to be able to share individuals’ stories about how God is working in their lives, and offer the reader a challenge to live more intentionally for Christ in order to never be afraid to go ‘to the heights.’”

Tim Cahill
Age 25
Parish Cathedral of St. Paul, St. Paul
Occupation Technician

Since participating in St. Paul’s Outreach events at the University of Minnesota, Tim Cahill has desired to continue building community around the archdiocese. With Wesley Sandholm, Cahill founded the Catholic Beer Club, which is focused on bringing Catholics together to socialize. Cahill also acts as the co-president of Abria Pregnancy Resources’ young adult committee, promoting and coordinating social events for the St. Paul nonprofit. In addition, he helps organize Vespers at Our Lady of Lourdes in Minneapolis and serves on the CORE team for the Archdiocesan Men’s Conference.

Joe and Lisa Cossette
Ages 29 and 30
Parish St. Joseph, New Hope
Occupations Teacher

Both educators, Joe and Lisa Cossette see their careers as an opportunity for evangelization. Working daily with children and teens, they believe strongly in developing communities with their students and living out their faith through “modeling integrity, joy and love.” In their spare time, Joe and Lisa lead music ministry at St. Joseph in New Hope and are involved with the young adult community there, working to “impact others’ lives and help them grow into who God created them to be,” they said.

Ayi Doumassy
Age 30
Parish Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis
Occupation Student, retail co-manager

After becoming an altar server at the Basilica, Ayi Doumassy wanted to better understand the art and liturgy that surrounded him. In the process, he discovered a mystical side of the imagery, which compelled him to learn more. Now the liturgy and sacred arts representative on the parish council, Doumassy sees art and liturgy as a productive method of communication with non-Catholics, as the beauty and mystery provoke curiosity. A student at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Doumassy said his mission is to bring people to the Church through art and liturgy, and to shine light on any aspects that might be obscure.

Jeff Duresky
Age 29
Parish St. Agnes, St. Paul
Occupation Religion teacher

Since graduating from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul with a master’s in theology, Jeff Duresky has been deeply devoted to teaching young adults in the archdiocese. A theology teacher for grades 7-12 at St. Agnes School in St. Paul, Duresky tries to give students an appreciation for the Catholic Church, a desire to know and defend the truth, and the ability to stand up for the faith. That is best achieved by showing students goodness and beauty, he said. He believes that young adults have incredible insight and are capable of incredible things, calling them the “apologists on the ground.”

Steven Eichler
Age 26
Parish St. Peter, North St. Paul
Occupation IT help desk

In his IT job, Steven Eichler takes advantage of opportunities to share his faith with co-workers and help clarify Church teaching. That is a natural outgrowth of his work in the parish as a catechist, small group leader and retreat planner and co-leader. “People have too many misconceptions of what the Church actually teaches [and] believes,” he said. “Once I learned that the Church holds the truth, I felt called to dispel the ignorance of the Church in every way I can.” In addition to what he does for his parish, he serves on the Cathedral Young Adult core team as the website coordinator. He has an interest in helping young adults understand their faith. “Doubting and struggling with teachings of the Church is normal,” he said, “and the Church only wants to walk with us on our journey while giving us the truth, and not ostracize people because of it.”

Katie Erickson
Age 26
Parish Cathedral of St. Paul, St. Paul
Occupation Teacher

Teaching fifth-graders at St. Agnes School is a joyful experience for Katie Erickson, who says passing on the faith works both ways. “I love being able to awake my students to the joy of learning and the beauty of Christ and his creation,” she said. “My students call me on to holiness each day with their joy, their humility, their excitement, their love of Jesus.” She also finds satisfaction in volunteering for her parish, serving as a Cathedral tour guide. “Learning about the Cathedral and sharing that with others has deepened my love of Christ and my gratitude for the gift of my faith,” she said. Her faith is important to her, and she finds it rich and meaningful. “I love being Catholic because it is Christ’s Church,” she said, “and [in] it are contained both faith and reason, sinners and saints, beauty and suffering, truth and mystery.”

Father Nick Froehle
Age 27
Parish St. Ambrose, Woodbury
Occupation Parochial vicar

Ordained in 2017, Father Nick Froehle has taken a leading role with the youth and young adults at St. Ambrose in Woodbury, where he serves as parochial vicar. He assists with faith formation, confirmation and RCIA; visits the classrooms of St. Ambrose students; and recently started “Pints with Padre,” a young adult initiative to build fellowship and community among the young people of the parish. Father Froehle recognizes in young adults the desire for something to quiet all the noise that the world presents. With his easygoing and approachable attitude, he opens the door for many to Catholicism.

Ryan Glaser
Age 21
Parish St. Michael, Prior Lake
Occupation Seminarian

A seminarian at St. John Vianney College Seminary, Ryan Glaser has spent his college career in pursuit of Christ. That began in his home parish, where Glaser serves as a cantor, youth leader, altar server and member of the Knights of Columbus. The first teen in recent memory to enter into the seminary from his parish, Glaser offers an important example to his peers, whom he calls, “the powerhouses of change.” He said, “It is young adults who can strive to bring society closer to God and His Church. Regardless of whether we are married or serve as priests or religious, we all share the call to holiness.”

Rachel Herbeck
Age 24
Parish Nativity of Our Lord, St. Paul
Occupation Policy and outreach coordinator

In her work with the Minnesota Catholic Conference, Rachel Herbeck helps to convey the “policy voice” of the state’s Catholic bishops and to motivate Catholics to become involved in the political arena. Herbeck believes the Church’s instruction on how people should live is the path to greatest happiness and fulfillment. “The work that we do is providing society with the keys to human and social prosperity,” she said. She recognizes in young adults an insatiable desire for the truth, and she believes that this desire will renew the missionary spirit of the Church.

Ellie Jensen
Age 28
Parish Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis
Occupation Educator and coach, founder of LifeEdge Solutions

Ellie Jensen devotes her time to helping young adults develop healthy and happy lifestyle choices. Inspired by her work at Abria Pregnancy Resources in St. Paul, Jensen developed LifeEdge Solutions, which aims “to inspire youth and young adults to make the most advantageous lifestyle choices — especially when it comes to relationships and sexual health — by offering the most engaging and effective messages and messengers in Minnesota,” she said. Jensen also works with women and couples as a fertility education and medical management educator, and coaches and teaches high school students. “Young people have a natural curiosity towards life and a hunger for truth,” she said. “I see education as an art of drawing out that curiosity and responding to the hunger in a real and unapologetic way, which I believe will ultimately guide them to a relationship with the one who can answer their questions and satiate their hunger.”

Maria Keller
Age 18
Parish St. Anne, Hamel
Occupation Student, founder of Read Indeed

Since she was a child, Maria Keller has been striving to improve literacy among children in Minnesota and beyond. At age 8, she founded Read Indeed, a nonprofit focused on collecting and distributing books for children in need, with the belief that “a home that’s rich in books is a home that’s rich in possibilities.” Since then, she has given more than 2.5 million books, and her mission continues. “Giving back to those in need is the core element of my Catholic faith,” said Keller, now a freshmen at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.

Kory LaCroix
Age 29
Parish Holy Name of Jesus, Medina
Occupation Youth minister

Kory LaCroix considers his job in youth ministry for his parish a privilege. “It’s the best thing,” he said. “Every day, I get to go to work with the mission of helping people discover the goodness of who they are, the wonder of our Catholic faith, and the invitation to love and live for Jesus.” He also enjoys helping facilitate a relationship with Holy Name’s sister parish, Ascension in North Minneapolis. Living in North Minneapolis is an asset to this ministry. As for his faith, he appreciates the truths of the faith, the sacraments and the saints. “We have so many incredible women and men that have lived lives of love, and virtue and self gift,” he said. “I think it’s such a privilege to be able to read their writings, hear their stories and know them personally.” He added, “I’m also in awe of, and so thankful for, the richness and wonder of our faith: the history, the art, the architecture and the literature.”

Amy Lippert
Age 30
Parish Guardian Angels, Oakdale
Occupation Physical therapist assistant

Amy Lippert strives for the ideal of “running towards Christ.” In addition to serving on the parish council, teaching faith formation, and founding the Guardian Angels young adult group “Et Cetera,” Lippert helps to organize the GA Running Club, which partners with the Christian organization, Team World Vision. Through this organization, Lippert and other members run to raise money for clean water and child sponsorship in Africa. Lippert believes in the power of running as a fitting avenue for faith because, like the Church, it is an open and welcoming platform, available to people of all ages and in all places.

Mary Clare Melero
Age 25
Parish Divine Mercy, Faribault
Occupation Musician

Raised in a deeply musical family, Mary Clare Melero recognized the tie between music and faith when she was young. After assisting with worship for the first time at age 7, she furthered her passion by teaching herself guitar and piano, and continued after high school to serve and lead worship with her NET Ministries team. Last year she released an album titled “The Moon is Killer,” which seeks to tie the physical and spiritual elements of music to emotion and experience. Through her music, Melero expresses her love for God, but also desires to illustrate God’s love for others, causing a “stirring” in the hearts of his people, she said.

Matthew Michels
Age 25
Parish All Saints, Minneapolis
Occupation Supply chain construction

Matthew Michels devotes his time to building up the Church, literally and symbolically. A teacher of religious education and youth minister, he is dedicated to fortifying his parish community, but he also spends his free time as a craftsman in church restoration. He has worked on convents for the Handmaids of the Heart of Jesus and Pro Ecclesia Sancta. Additionally, Michels co-founded a Twin Cities chapter of Juventutem, an organization for young adults dedicated to practicing traditional Church devotion, such as vespers and extraordinary-form Masses. Passionate about his work, Michels feels that he has found something beautiful and incredible that he cannot help but share with other young adults.

Sarah Norton
Age 29
Parish St. Joseph, West St. Paul
Occupation Founder of audio miniseries “Mental the Podcast”

After being diagnosed with postpartum depression, Sarah Norton talked to other women, from friends to complete strangers, and recognized a need in the community for an avenue of support. In response, she started “Mental the Podcast,” an audio miniseries investigating postpartum (or peripartum) depression and anxiety. Through the podcast, Norton shares her experience with listeners, as well as the experiences of women she has interviewed, in order to remove the shame and uncertainty about the condition. Through this work, Norton aims to uplift mothers in her community and elsewhere.

Andrew Pham
Age 20
Parish St. Anne-St. Joseph Hien, Minneapolis
Occupation Student, part-time pharmacy tech

At 20, Andrew Pham tries to serve his community. In addition to attending college and working part time at a pharmacy, Pham gives a considerable amount of time to his parish. Whether serving as a youth leader, running the lights and sound board, or building sets for Church holidays, Pham leads in many capacities because, he said, “Young adults need to continue to help building up the Church; without us there will be no Church left. That is why I continue to dedicate the majority of all my free time to help serve God. … I want to be a good example to others of hard work, honesty and authenticity.”

Nick Plankers
Age 24
Parish St. Paul, Ham Lake
Occupation Math teacher, baseball and football coach

A teacher in a public school, Nick Plankers does his best to exemplify a “living disciple of Christ” for his students, he said. Part of that is keeping a Bible on his desk and maintaining a positive attitude during class. He shows this attitude as a coach as well, working with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to bring faith into sports. Plankers serves as a youth minister and participates regularly in daily Mass and adoration at the Church of St. Paul. He believes that through his actions, he can show the world that the Church is young and alive.

Richelle Reding
Age 23
Parish Holy Name of Jesus, Wayzata
Occupation Architect and designer

A longtime parishioner of Holy Name of Jesus, Richelle Reding serves as an extraordinary minister, assists with youth ministry and serves on a parish committee. She also co-facilitates a women’s group for young adults. Reding works as a design architect for civic, education and wellness buildings that make a positive impact on her community. Reding calls the Catholic Church “a place for authenticity, hope, joy and truth,” and she does her part to bring that hope and joy to those around her.

Wesley Sandholm
Age 25
Parish Cathedral of St. Paul, St. Paul
Occupation IT

A recent convert to Catholicism, Wesley Sandholm integrates his faith into every area of his life. He sees his work as a “sanctifying action,” and often converses with his co-workers about his faith. Sandholm assists with confirmation and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults at the Cathedral, as well as serving on the parish council. He co-founded the Twin Cities’ chapter of the Catholic Beer Club to bring an element of fun into faith and fellowship. He thinks the Church can sometimes underestimate young adults, and he is confident in their ability to make an impact in the archdiocese. He urges young Catholics to remember that their faith matters, and what they put in is what they will get out of it.

Sarah Spangenberg
Age 25
Parish St. Mark, St. Paul
Occupation Student, communications assistant

A student at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul, Sarah Spangenberg pursues Christ through knowledge. She is finishing her master’s in theology with a focus on Pope Francis’ “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home” and its contribution to Catholic moral teaching. She hopes to use her knowledge to teach, she said, “to be an instrument of the truth in a world that is so saturated by rhetoric and ideology.” Spangenberg also works as a communications assistant for the Minnesota Catholic Conference in St. Paul, writing articles, blog posts and educational content. She hopes to encourage a generation that prays, “Here I am Lord. I come to do your will,” she said.

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