From left to right: Alyanna Viray, Sama Abada, Riley McGuire, and Miriam Lazarus
As Catholics, we are called to be examples of God’s love to others. Pope Francis stated, “It is not enough to say we are Christians. We must live the faith, not only with our words, but with our actions.”Fewer Canadians are engaging in group religious activities, yet some Catholics are going against the trend. Meet four young adults who are serving the Church in Canada.
From Sunday Mass-goer to RCIC program volunteer
Alyanna Viray, 25, had been going toSt. Barnabas Parish since she was a little girl. Her whole life she had attended Sunday Mass, but apart from that she wasn’t very active in the Church. It wasn’t until she was in university that she grew deeper in her faith and, seeing this, her mother suggested she attend the young adults’ program at St. Barnabas. From the first young adults’ event she went to, Viray found the people to be welcoming and kind. She continued attending events and got to know more people her age. Eventually, a leader of the young adults’ ministry named Josephine approached Viray and asked her if she would be interested in helping out with the ministry. Later, while serving in the young adults’ ministry, Viray was encouraged by the pastor, Fr. Hansoo, to help out in other areas. She ended up helping out with ushering and with sanitizing the pews.“Our church really needed volunteers during COVID to help usher people and to keep the environment nice and clean,” Viray said. St. Barnabas also needed volunteers for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Children (RCIC) program, which helps to catechize children so that they can be prepared to receive the sacraments. Viray underwent the screening mandated by the Archdiocese of Toronto, which entailed an interview and a police reference check. Now, she has been a volunteer for the RCIC program for two years. She likes helping children learn more about the faith and walking with them in their journey to becoming more mature Christians.“Honestly, the thing that I enjoy the most is being part of God's mission to evangelize in the world and to bring His love to other people. In this case, I’m really helping children to receive the sacraments,” she said. “I believe fully and truly in the truth and the power of the sacraments. That is an amazing motivation just on its own.”
Feeling a sense of community from her parish
Sama Abada, 33, started volunteering at a young age. When she was in elementary school, she was a monitor. In high school, she volunteered for the Savio Club, an afterschool arts, crafts, and sports club held atSt. Benedict Parish, where she was a parishioner. Even after obtaining her high school volunteer hours, Abada continued to volunteer for the Savio Club. She later became an elementary school teacher and, when she was teaching Grades 7 and 8, helped out with Confirmation preparation at the parish. During that time, she was asked to be the MC at her best friend's wedding and wanted to practice her public speaking skills by becoming a lector. Little did she know, Antoniette, the parish's Lay Pastoral Assistant, was going to ask Abada to be a lector.“I was approaching Antoniette and she was approaching me. And I was going to ask her about lectoring and she was going to invite me to be a lector. It really worked out,” Abada said. “I continued with it because I loved it so much.”In 2021, Abada was invited by Fr. Dave, the pastor at the time, to be the secretary of the pastoral council. St. Benedict’s pastoral council oversees the needs of the parish and makes sure that they are heading in the right direction. They started initiatives like Gather the Flock, to encourage parishioners to return to church after COVID-19 lockdowns and to learn from that experience. “We lost a lot of members in the church,” she said. “If there were any people that were in need, [we wanted] just to make sure to be able to contact them or see if there's any way that we could move forward from that.”Abada feels a strong sense of community from her parish. That connection keeps her motivated to continue volunteering.“I really feel like it’s a home, something that I need to take care of,” she said. “I feel like I belong to the church. And so, I feel like it’s my home and also that the parishioners are my family. I feel very connected to them because I’ve grown up in the church and because I volunteered in different areas.”
Sharing her gift of music
Miriam Lazarus, 31, joinedSt. Thomas More Parish’s youth group in 2012 and then moved on to join the young adults’ group. She also enjoyed singing and wanted to contribute her talent. In 2014, she approached Donald, the music minister, and asked to join the choir. She continued to sing in the choir until the churches were closed.“When COVID started, we took a break,” Lazarus said. “The [music] minister said not to come for the choir. I mean, the churches were closed for one. So, it was online streaming. And then, once we started going, they said it was up to us if we wanted to join or not.”Lazarus returned to the choir, with members wearing masks in church. After protocols were lifted, choir members were allowed to sing without masks, and choir members who were inactive started returning.In addition to singing in the choir, she sometimes helps out with other parish activities like Coffee Sunday, which is held every other Sunday. Volunteers serve coffee and cookies to parishioners, which facilitates conversations and helps build relationships within the community. She also assists with the registration for young adults' events.“When I’m at these events, I enjoy being around my age group,” she said.
Evangelizing young adults through English country dancing
Riley McGuire, 27, first learned about English country dancing when he took a course on Jane Austen during his undergraduate studies. He had a professor who organized for a historical dance instructor to come and teach his class English country dancing from the Regency period. He realized that it was a fun and elegant dance that people could enjoy today. Years later, coming out of the pandemic, McGuire was talking to a friend about how their social lives have been deprived. They were in the mood for fun, so they organized a ball where they would teach English country dancing. The first ball was held in February 2022. That year, McGuire also wrote anovel inspired by Christian themes and based on the Parable of the Prodigal Son.The first ball was held at McGuire’s apartment with just twelve attendees. The attendees really loved the ball and were excited for McGuire to host another one. Since they needed more space, McGuire thought about hosting the ball at a parish.“We simply needed a larger venue, and churches are very natural gathering places for young people, young Catholics,” McGuire said. “Many of our friend circles are based out of parishes, or we know each other from parishes, so we approached some parishes to see if we could use their halls and, in the end, we were able to use them.”The Julian Balls are open to young people whether they are Catholic or not. They are fertile grounds for evangelization. McGuire believes that when the balls are held in parishes, they open people’s eyes to the communal and social aspects of the Catholic faith. “I think that lay Catholics are Catholics everywhere and at all times, not just when they are engaging in exclusively parish events, not just when they’re at Mass on Sunday,” he said.“So, even in their social lives, Catholics should be living in a way that reflects the great joy and beauty of their faith. Even by hosting a party, hosting a ball, bringing people together in a way that is compatible with our human dignity and that helps us rejoice as children of God, this is a great service to the Church and to the world that Catholics can do.”