The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

15 Catholic young adults who inspire us, 2021

The pandemic helped many Catholic young adults realize how important Christ and their faith are to them.

Studies show that up to 50 percent of Catholics 30 years old and younger have left the Church. These 15 profiles paint a picture of some young adults who are choosing to stay close to the Church in their careers and as volunteers in school, campus and parish ministries.

Church leaders around the state nominated young adults in the Diocese of Little Rock who are an inspiration to people in the pews. We interviewed some millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) and some from Generation Z (born 1997 and later), asking them to share their faith journey. They work in schools, parishes and ministries full time, part time or as volunteers. Most are single, but some are engaged or married with children. For these profiles, we selected Catholics born from 1991 to 2003, now 18 to 30 years old.

Aprille Hanson Spivey, Dwain Hebda, Alesia Schaefer, Cole Blagg and Maryanne Meyerriecks contributed to profiles in this section.

*Editor's note: Articles will continue to be added to this section through Sept. 10. 



Isabelle “Izzy” Jones: Standing up

By Aprille Hanson Spivey, Published: September 10, 2021   

For about three weeks, Isabelle “Izzy” Jones helped a 10-year-old Honduran boy brush up on his English while he was staying at the Kino Border Initiative shelter in Nogales, Mexico, before seeking asylum in the United States with his mother.  “It was really amazing to see how resilient he was and how excited he was to read a book. He was crying when he said goodbye to us,” the 20-year-old said. “That moment really showed me More... 

Anabel Garcia: Cooking, kids and love

By Maryanne Meyerriecks, Published: September 9, 2021   

Anabel Garcia, 29, wears three hats at Immaculate Conception School.  During the day, the culinary school graduate manages the school cafeteria. When the final bell rings, she becomes the director of afterschool care and during summer break she directs the summer program.  “When I received my associate’s degree in baking and pastries, I was diagnosed with arthritis in both my shoulders and started taking business classes at UA Fort Smith. At IC I get to spend my More... 

Katia Rubio: Ready to serve

By Dwain Hebda, Published: September 8, 2021   

For as long as she can remember, Katia Rubio, 19, has put her faith into action through serving others, whether by cleaning St. Albert Church with her mother, teaching parish youth or being an altar server at Mass.   “I was really involved with our youth group too,” she said. “We set out this little pantry for our community; our youth group helped design it, and then the Knights of Columbus built it for us. “We’re in a More... 

Lucero Chena: Faith and science

By Aprille Hanson Spivey, Published: September 7, 2021   

Growing up, Lucero Chena practically lived at St. James Church in Searcy along with her parents and two siblings. At a young age, she was attending parish events and eventually began interpreting and translating. “So when one of the cases I had to do was help at a doctor's office, that is kind of what got me into medicine and then eventually neurology,” the 19-year-old said.  A sophomore at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, she’s More... 

Emily Bannister: Nurturing the faith

By Maryanne Meyerriecks, Published: September 6, 2021   

Emily Eveld Bannister follows in the footsteps of her brother and husband by serving the Church.  Bannister, 24, is the director of faith formation and evangelization at Sacred Heart of Mary Church in Barling. She inherited the position of youth minister from her husband Garrett when he began law school and expanded her role in the parish this summer when Jeff Hines became the assistant faith formation director for the diocese. “I had taught PRE when Garrett More... 

Maranda Pfeiffer: You can count on her

By Dwain Hebda, Published: September 5, 2021   

There was a time when even the thought of singing or lectoring in front of a full church was frightening to Maranda Pfeiffer. But there was always someone there to nudge the now-26-year-old middle school teacher out of her comfort zone. “The teacher in my sixth-grade year was one of my favorite religious education teachers. He gave me a lot of confidence in myself,” she said. “He talked about how well I could read, and it’s More... 

Zachariah Neumeier: Fraternal love

By Alesia Schaefer, Published: September 4, 2021   

This looks to be a milestone year for Zachariah Neumeier. Not only is he graduating from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville with a degree in biomedical engineering and a minor in computer science, but he is also marrying his high school sweetheart, Jean Phillips, in October.   Neumeier, 21, takes it all in stride as he wraps up a successful college career that has been busy with a virtual research internship, involvement in academic clubs and More... 

Anna Clay: Go where most needed

By Aprille Hanson Spivey, Published: September 3, 2021   

Coming off her fourth consecutive 12-hour shift, Anna Clay admitted to some “brain fog.” “Well, at this point I'm kind of used to it. Unfortunately with COVID surging back up, our floor has been kind of short, so I'm trying to step up and help where I can,” the 28-year-old nurse said.  She lives in Texas, working primarily with recovering surgical patients at Baylor Scott & White Surgery Center in Waxahachie. “I’m actually getting my first (COVID) vaccine More... 

Bobbi Baker: Mary’s rosary maker

By Dwain Hebda, Published: September 2, 2021   

Bobbi Baker describes herself as a miracle baby, in more ways than one. Not only were her parents older than most when she was born, but her arrival played a big role in her father recapturing his faith.  “My dad went to the Vietnam War and lost his faith after seeing a whole bunch of war atrocities. He was really lost,” she said. “They didn’t know that they could get pregnant with me, and my dad More... 

Karly Brooks and Kenzie Cundall: The faith connectors

By Aprille Hanson Spivey, Published: September 1, 2021   

When Karly Brooks and Kenzie Cundall went out for coffee two years ago, they quickly realized they were going to be friends.  Cundall, 25, grew up attending Christ the King Church in Little Rock. She left her job as the aftercare program/summer camp director for a career in media marketing. Faith is a priority, growing up in a supportive family, including an older brother, Father Brian Cundall.  Brooks, 28, who began attending Christ the King four years More... 

Isaac McClinton: Aimed for high school

By Alesia Schaefer, Published: September 1, 2021   

Setting up an assist on the basketball court is something Isaac McClinton knows how to do. Off the court, McClinton has set up an assist that should score big for the only Catholic high school in Northwest Arkansas. McClinton, 19, is a member of the first graduating class of 2021 of Ozark Catholic Academy in Tontitown. He transferred as a 10th grader to help found the high school with 22 fellow students. McClinton recognizes he was More... 

Ethan Harris: A leader who follows

By Maryanne Meyerriecks, Published: August 30, 2021   

Ethan Harris stayed close to his faith this summer by working as a missionary at Camp Covecrest, an eight-week Life Teen camp in Dahlonega, Ga. The 21-year-old is a member of St. Michael Church in Van Buren and a graduate of St. Boniface School. He is a senior at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, majoring in secondary education and history. “I credit my mother and my grandparents for keeping me in church,” Harris said. “Shout out to More... 

Marín Family: The mariachi band

By Maryanne Meyerriecks, Published: August 30, 2021   

Making music is all in the family with the Marín siblings. Just three years ago, Luis Marín admits he could play only three notes before his brother Juan pushed him and his brothers and sister to learn music so they could begin a mariachi band. University of Arkansas student Juan, 22, the leader of the band, plays the guitar, violin and also sings. But these days, Juan and his three brothers -- Carlos, 25; Luis, 26; More... 

Melissa Rangel: On a national stage

By Dwain Hebda, Published: August 29, 2021   

Melissa Rangel has always been involved with the workings of her home parish, first at St. Anne Church in Berryville and now at St. Jude Church in Jacksonville. In her latest endeavor, the 27-year-old works to help other young people across the country find their own place in their faith and in their parishes.   Rangel is the national coordinator for Encuentros de Promoción Juvenil (EPJ) — Encounters of Youth Promotion — a role to which she More... 

Adam Prince: Care for the family

By Cole Blagg, Published: August 28, 2021   

When it comes to church ministry, Adam Prince is quite the Renaissance man. A member of both St. Leo the Great University Parish and St. John Church in Russellville, Prince is available for whatever the parishes need. “I like to donate my time and help with just about anything I can,” Prince, 24, said. “That can be anywhere from helping with installing some new technology to mopping or sweeping the floors, or cooking at an event More...