The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

15 Catholic young adults who inspire us, 2019

The statistics are sobering. Fifty percent of Catholics 30 years old and younger have left the Church.

“Half the kids that we baptized and confirmed in the last 30 years are now ex-Catholics or unaffiliated,” said Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, who is known for his website, “Word on Fire.” “One out of six millennials in the U.S. is now a former Catholic.”

But all hope is not lost. Church leaders around the state nominated young adults in the Diocese of Little Rock who are an inspiration to those in the pews. We interviewed millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) and Generation Z (born 1997 and later) to let them share their stories of faith and following God’s call. They work in our schools, parishes and ministries full time, part time or even as volunteers. Most are single, but some are married or have children.

For these profiles, we focused on Catholics 18 to 30 years old (born 1989 to 2001).

Aprille Hanson, Dwain Hebda, Alesia Schaefer, James Keary and Maryanne Meyerriecks contributed profiles in this section.


Lucy Powell: Prayer and music

By Aprille Hanson, Published: September 11, 2019   

When Lucy Powell plays the cajón, or box drum, at youth retreats or for diocesan events, it’s more than simply playing an instrument. “For me music is how I pray … Music is such a huge thing for me spiritually and hobby-wise. It’s so neat to bring that to kids and have them praise the Lord in that way,” the 22-year-old said. A senior at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, she’s studying exercise science. After More... 

Lucia Munoz Bocanegra: A role model

By Dwain Hebda, Published: September 10, 2019   

Asked what has inspired her to take a prominent role in mentoring young people, Lucia Munoz Bocanegra has a simple, ready answer.  “God was calling me to do something to serve my church,” she said.  Munoz Bocanegra participates in activities that allow her to be a present, visible example of living a faith-filled life to girls and teens in her parish, St. James Church in Searcy. There, she’s been assistant youth director for seven years and a More... 

Levi Baus: God called

By Alesia Schaefer, Published: September 9, 2019   

Whether you believe it is by divine intervention or being at the right place at the right time, Levi Baus, 27, believes God had his hand in bringing him to Northwest Arkansas. By way of Lincoln, Neb., Baus came to the state to become one of the founding teachers at the new Catholic high school, Ozark Catholic Academy in Tontitown. Baus, and his bride-to-be, Amanda, first visited Northwest Arkansas in 2017 looking for a small church to More... 

Jeremy Elsinger: Meet him face to face

By Aprille Hanson, Published: September 8, 2019   

Jeremy Elsinger has nothing to look at. No texts to send, no selfies to snap, no tweets to read, no calls to make. “No phone, no phone,” the 30-year-old laughed. In the mid-2000s, his buddies made a pact not to get a cellphone. They eventually caved. “I guess I just kind of held out. I never really needed one, always being around family members and friends. I definitely prefer the kind of face-to-face interaction as much as possible.” Living More... 

Collin Gallimore and Anthony Reiter: Video stars

By James Keary, Published: September 6, 2019   

What better way to spread the faith to young people than on YouTube? Two young adults from Hot Springs felt the calling recently and have created their own channel to share teachings and music they love. Collin Gallimore and Anthony Reiter, both 18-year-old members of St. Mary of the Springs Church, call their channel Caffeinated Catholic. They have already created three videos aimed at teaching other young people about the Church, relationships with Christ and how More... 

Jacob Hess: Faith on fire

By Aprille Hanson, Published: September 6, 2019   

About three years ago, Jacob Hess, 25, had “a spiritual awakening.” “I just felt like I was being called to do more,” he said. It began with lectoring at his home parish, St. Peter Church in Wynne. Today, he’s a eucharistic minister, youth ministry and Vacation Bible School volunteer, Knights of Columbus member and an altar server. “I just feel like I’m getting everything in its purest form when I’m with Father on the altar,” Hess said More... 

Emily Feuerborn: Walking with Godly women

By Alesia Schaefer, Published: September 3, 2019   

Emily Feuerborn, soon to be 21, believes everyone has a story to tell. As her life continues to unfold, she is intent on keeping her story interesting. One of eight children, Feuerborn, originally from Olathe, Kan., made the decision to attend the University of Arkansas in the spring of her senior year. But that decision was made after praying a novena to St. Therese of Lisieux and receiving a heavenly sign of sorts. “I was praying in More... 

Tarah Verkamp: Sharing pro-life message

By Maryanne Meyerriecks, Published: September 3, 2019   

Tarah Verkamp, 20, is looking at how she can make a difference on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas. In Conway, the sophomore is an active member of Catholic Campus Ministry. With several other students, she traveled to the University of Notre Dame this summer to receive evangelization training. “Within our group, we learned how to evangelize through one-on-one ministry with another person and to encourage one another to become disciples in Christ.” She has been More... 

Drew Roberson: Beyond Sunday Mass

By Dwain Hebda, Published: September 1, 2019   

Drew Roberson’s first taste of service to the Church came at a young age at the direction of his mother, Tamara. Growing up in Blessed Sacrament Church in Jonesboro, he was shown there was no shortage of ways to get involved. “My mom helped me understand being a part of a church doesn’t mean just sitting in the pew every Sunday,” said Roberson, 21. “Being a part of the Church is being involved and to serve. More... 

Stephanie Djimbi Dooh: Peace in the U.S.

By Aprille Hanson, Published: September 1, 2019   

Stephanie Djimbi Dooh sees Jesus in the faces of the 1- to 3-year-olds she cares for as a childcare worker. “I consider kids like angels because kids they don’t lie, they’re genuine,” she said. “They help me understand that life is not about what we think or see, we think about money and material things, but when a child talks to you in a very genuine way, sometimes they say really random stuff, but I feel More... 

Daniella Infante: An international view

By Maryanne Meyerriecks, Published: August 31, 2019   

Daniella Infante has found a way of giving back through GEM (Girls Education Matters) scholarship program for Guatemalan students. A lifelong member of Immaculate Conception Church in Fort Smith, she volunteers with St. Scholastica Monastery’s GEM program, helping with technology and graphic design. In July, she traveled with a group of missionaries to Esquipulas where she met the girls she’d come to know through stories and pictures.  “Some of the girls are attending college now, and their More... 

Matthew Phillips: Finding his stride

By Dwain Hebda, Published: August 31, 2019   

Many new graduates feel nervous reporting to their first “real world” job after college. Matthew Phillips of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in North Little Rock (Marche) is no different. Phillips, faith formation coordinator and PRE director for IHM, didn’t know what awaited him in his first class. “I was expecting it to be very difficult, being so young, to work for the Church,” he said. “But everyone in the parish has been so supportive and they’ve More... 

Anna Dang: Bridging traditional and modern

By Maryanne Meyerriecks, Published: August 27, 2019   

Staying connected to faith and culture is important for Anna Dang. While attending college, Dang, 21, continues to attend Sacred Heart of Mary Church in Barling and be an active participant in youth ministry, particularly the Vietnamese community’s youth program called Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Ministry. It is an international organization that nourishes children’s faith from childhood through the teen years. While children receive their sacramental education through Catholic schools and the parish religious education programs, they supplement More... 

Alexis Burchfield: Following her role model

By James Keary, Published: August 25, 2019   

Alexis Burchfield received strong directions in life from her parents, her friends and the youth minster at her church and the coordinator of Camp Joshua, a pro-life camp for high school students. She never realized that by working in the corporate world, missionary work and her education that she was preparing herself to motivate so many people as the youth minister at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Benton. She said she had always admired, Bevie More... 

Braylin Allison: Searching for faith

By Aprille Hanson, Published: August 24, 2019   

Braylin Allison’s life changed at 16 when she attended Search, a diocesan youth retreat. Today, a parishioner at Christ the King Church in Little Rock, the 23-year-old is dedicated to being that spiritual mentor to teens on the adult Search team and volunteering with CYM at CTK. Her husband Jake, whom she met through Search, serves on the Search adoration team. “I was still trying to figure out my Catholic faith when I went … I More...