The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

15 Catholic young adults who inspire us, 2018

You know the Church is in great hands when you read about these Catholic young adults in Arkansas who are giving back in profound ways.

Typically what you hear about millennials, born between 1982 and 2000, is that they aren’t religious and don’t feel the need to belong to a church, but these young adults are deeply committed to their faith, to their spiritual growth and to their church.

We sought out recommendations and interviewed 15 young adults who are doing exceptional work in their schools, parishes and ministries full time, part time or even as volunteers. Most are single, but some are married.

For these profiles, we focused on Catholics 18 to 30 years old (born 1988 to 2000).


Profiles in this section were written by Aprille Hanson, Maryanne Meyerriecks, Dwain Hebda and Alesia Schaefer.


The Arzola sisters: Volunteers extraordinaire

Published: September 5, 2018   

The Arzola sisters, parishioners at St. Anne Church in North Little Rock, shine with God’s love in both word and deed. “I like to help and I learn a lot about everybody,” said Yemina Arzola of why she volunteers at the parish. Yemina, 27, and Veronica, 21, are catechists for first Communion and Claudia, 27, teaches children’s RCIA. Claudia said she enjoys seeing “their faces of joy whenever they receive the sacraments and to be happy about learning More... 

Kat Friend: Art as prayer

Published: September 4, 2018   

When students come into Katherine “Kat” Friend’s art classroom at Christ the King School in Little Rock it’s a prayerful experience.  “I just feel like by creating, the kids are getting to experience really what God does as our maker. It gives them an opportunity to build a unique relationship with God,” the 27-year-old fine arts graduate said. Friend has taught art, art history and theology at St. Edward School, Catholic High School and is going into More... 

Natalie Lyons: Feeling worthy

Published: September 3, 2018   

People that knew Natalie Lyons a few years ago would agree she has “completely changed.” “When I first set foot in the church, I could automatically feel something,” the 26-year-old said of when she first attended Mass. Previously Baptist, she converted three years ago. “What I found at the Catholic Church was a personal encounter with Christ and it was a game changer for me.” Today, she leads small groups, participates in a discipleship program and helps organize More... 

Garrett Bannister: Forming the youth

Published: August 31, 2018   

Although he was born into the Catholic faith, Garrett Bannister didn’t know he wanted to make the Church his life’s work until he got to high school. Bannister, 22, is the newly hired director of faith formation and evangelization for youth at Sacred Heart Church in Barling. “I have not always wanted to work in the Church,” he said. “When I got to high school, that’s when I really started to learn more about my faith More... 

Kevin Azanza and Jessica Nyden: Eager to serve

Published: August 30, 2018   

Kevin Azanza and Jessica Nyden both believe faith formation and service should extend beyond the high school years. As high school students, both were heavily involved at their home parish, St. Vincent de Paul in Rogers, in Edge and Life Teen ministries, Bible studies and volunteering at the parish food pantry. Now that they are college students, both want to promote the same level of commitment for young adults. Along with associate pastor Father Martin Siebold, More... 

Adriana Aguilar: At home in Arkansas

Published: August 29, 2018   

Adriana Aguilar moved to Arkansas from her native Laredo, Texas, last September to accept a job with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She didn’t know a soul. What a difference a year makes. “I don’t have any family in Arkansas so church was just kind of part of home,” she said. “When I got here I was going through lots of changes, so it honestly helped a lot just to have that constant.” Aguilar, 25, jumped into More... 

Benjamine Brinkley: Serving many roles

Published: August 29, 2018   

When Benjamine Brinkley was greeted before Mass at Blessed Sacrament Church in Jonesboro, he explained to then-pastor Father Jack Vu, “I’m here observing.” “After that first Mass I was just there every Sunday,” the 27-year-old said, converting to Catholicism from his Southern Baptist roots six years ago. “… It’s the tradition and the stability of the Church. It’s the only one that can really trace itself to Christ.” He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, More... 

Claire Hollenbeck: Pro-life messenger

Published: August 29, 2018   

Claire Hollenbeck’s leadership skills became evident at Trinity Junior High School where she received the Benedictine Leadership Award in 2015 and at Northside High School where she was student council vice president. The 18-year-old is a freshman at University of Arkansas - Fort Smith and the oldest child of Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck and Trinity Junior principal Dr. Karen Hollenbeck. Her parents are strong role models as community leaders. She has shown leadership as a core More... 

Sam Johnson: Never stop learning

Published: August 29, 2018   

Becoming a life-long learner is a lesson Sam Johnson has taken to heart. A senior with a quadruple major at the University of Arkansas, Johnson has never been one to shy away from the opportunity to learn something new. He has studied abroad three times; in France, Japan and Italy, each time leaving his host country with the experience of another culture and new ideas to explore. Johnson, 21, started as an economics major, but will graduate More... 

Maria Garcia: From pain to promise

Published: August 29, 2018   

Maria Garcia is a self-proclaimed extrovert who finds joy helping others. “I draw my happiness from my faith. I love coming to church, I love helping others,” the 21-year-old college student said. “… I really do try to love everyone as much as I can and forgive everyone as much as I can.” That hopeful attitude is a far cry from what she’s had to endure. Garcia came to the United States from Mexico at 5 years More... 

Maria Lupe Garcia: Appreciating the silence

Published: August 29, 2018   

Maria Lupe Garcia, 22, grew up seeing her parents and older siblings take an active part in parish life and she decided to follow suit. She is the second youngest in a family of seven children. Two of her brothers, Jesús and Juan, were also recognized in this “15 Catholic Young Adults Who Inspire Us” feature in 2016. At Immaculate Conception Church in Fort Smith, Garcia is the coordinator of Encuentro Promocion Juvenil, a Hispanic young More... 

Ashley Phillips-Teem: Loves being at church

Published: August 29, 2018   

When Ashley Phillips-Teem teaches pre-K students about the Catholic faith, trips to the church sanctuary at St. Jude the Apostle Parish in Jacksonville are a must. The kids quietly explore, whether it’s the nativity with baby Jesus at Christmas or simply learning that when the red sanctuary candle is lit it means “Jesus is in church.” “I feel like if they can see what’s going on they’ll pay attention,” said the 23-year-old newlywed, who has taught More... 

Jacobo “Coy” Sanchez: Music, soul of worship

Published: August 29, 2018   

Jacobo “Coy” Sanchez, a member of St. Edward Church in Texarkana, has a simple recommendation for anyone looking to get more out of Mass: Open your mouth and sing. “Singing is my way of praying,” he said. “I know a little bit about our religion, Catholic and everything, but I’m not really good at explaining everything. My best way to actually communicate in this case would be through music. Basically, that’s my way of actually praying More... 

Christa Super: From parish to college

Published: August 29, 2018   

For many young Catholics, the transition to college can have a detrimental effect on their faith life. Not so with Christa Super, a cradle Catholic from Cove (Polk County) and member of St. Agnes Church in Mena. “I knew I could make a choice; I can either stay in today or not. It just seemed like the right thing to do to go to church,” she said. “I was a biology major and I started organic More... 

Gabriel Torres: Charismatic man

Published: August 29, 2018   

Gabriel Torres’ two passions in the Church — music and the Catholic Charismatic movement — intersected when he was learning to play the guitar. Torres, 30, has been a member of St. Joseph Church in Fayetteville and active in the charismatic movement for the past 10 years. In that time, he’s served as a musician and leader of a youth choir. “I just pretty much taught myself (guitar), watching videos, through books, pretty much by myself,” More...