The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

15 Catholic young adults who inspire us, 2015

Active young adult Catholics are inspiring. They are serving their parishes and communities full-time, part-time or as volunteers, setting an example to the children, teens and adults they serve. They are single, married, parents, college students or in the workforce.

Young adults are considered those in their late teens, 20s and 30s. Often today they are referred to as Millennials, born after 1980. 

Arkansas Catholic asked parish, school and diocesan leaders for recommendations of young men and women who are doing exceptional work in their ministries. For these profiles, we focused on Catholics 18 to 30 years old (born 1985 to 1997).

Aprille Hanson, Fran Presley, Maryanne Meyerriecks and Alesia Schaefer contributed to this feature.


Nick & Kristin Ables: Married & Ministering

Published: August 28, 2015   

Nick and Kristin Ables, married in 2012, welcomed a baby girl named Siena Aug. 22. For two years, they’ve had practice sharing their faith with young people as youth ministers at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Little Rock. “It’s almost a lifestyle,” Nick, 28, said. “It’s helped us grow closer to Christ in our marriage.” The Ables teach about 25 students in high school and middle school. “Last year there was a girl who was very More... 

Jacob Brumfield: Mentor to young men

Published: August 28, 2015   

Jacob Brumfield can attest to the Lord’s use of dramatic flair for getting attention. This past spring, he had a Saul-to-Paul experience when both feet were broken in separate incidents in a 48-hour span. Brumfield thought everything was going according to plan. He graduated from Transylvania College in Lexington, Ky., and started a job at the Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville five years ago. But while his corporate lifestyle kept him busy, it did not always keep More... 

Wendy Fernandez: Paying it Forward

Published: August 28, 2015   

When Wendy Fernandez received her first Communion and confirmation in the ninth grade, she was on a mission — she wanted to serve the Lord as an altar server at Holy Cross Church in Crossett. “I just like to be a helping hand for the priest,” the 19-year-old said, adding that she’s paid it forward. For about two years, she’s helped to train children to be altar servers, including one of her sisters. She’s also passed her More... 

Kevin Fialkowski: Compassionate Servant

Published: August 28, 2015   

Kevin Fialkowski is here to serve, whether it is at his home parish St. Albert in Heber Springs or saving lives … at least one day. “In the future I just want to be able to take technology and medicine and (combine it) for the benefit of everyone,” said the 19-year-old sophomore studying biomedical engineering and pre-medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Certified in several technical areas, he has operated the St. Albert’s sound system during Mass. “I’ll More... 

Deidra Lee: Taking Care of the Little Ones

Published: August 28, 2015   

Just as Jesus said, “Let the children come to me,” Deidra Lee has made that her mission: educating the little ones as a catechist at St. John Church in Russellville. This year she coordinated Vacation Bible School and although she thought many would think she’s “too young” at just 20 years old, the “Surfing with the Holy Spirit” program was a success. “You have 100 kids singing and dancing about Jesus,” the junior early education major at More... 

Rita Leone: Crusader of Prayer

Published: August 28, 2015   

At 1 a.m. each Sunday, Rita Leone is in the perpetual adoration chapel at St. Peter the Fisherman Church in Mountain Home. The 20-year-old said she has always gone to adoration with her father, but when she turned 18, she signed up for her own holy hour. “I feel like I need to grow closer to God. That hour is so beautiful,” she said. “I feel empty unless I go.” But her prayers don’t stop there. Every More... 

Evan Matthews: A Parish Leader

Published: August 28, 2015   

Evan Matthews, a parishioner of St. Edward Church in Texarkana his entire life, is dedicated to serving Jesus and his Church. His parents, grandparents and the late Deacon Joe Bruick have served as worthy role models. “I want to live by their example,” he said. “I watched the way my parents and grandparents lived, and their relationship with Jesus Christ.” Matthews, 28, has served as president of the parish council, where he gave support to Christ Renews More... 

Lakyn Oliver: Humbled to Serve

Published: August 28, 2015   

When Lakyn Oliver was just a freshman in high school, she began teaching 3 to 7 year olds at Holy Cross Church in Sheridan about God. Throughout high school, she never passed up the opportunity to make the Bible stories interactive, including her annual “Lost Sheep” hide-and-seek. “The church actually had stuffed animal sheep. I’d hide them around the church and the kids would have to find them,” the now 19-year-old said. “I’d talk about how More... 

Hannah Philpot: Missionary on Campus

Published: August 28, 2015   

For Hannah Philpot, 24, learning about the faith and teaching the faith go hand-in-hand. Throughout her junior high and high school years at St. Raphael Church in Springdale and St. Joseph Church in Tontitown, Philpot was involved in her parish youth ministry and serving on the diocesan Youth Advisory Council. But it was at Missouri State University that she found her current mission. As a freshman, Philpot met a Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) missionary and More... 

Juan Raya: Music and Ministry

Published: August 28, 2015   

As bass guitarist in the Life Teen band at Immaculate Conception Church in Fort Smith, Juan Raya, 23, provides the harmonic foundation for Sunday Mass. As a First Communion teacher, he gives a spiritual foundation for children preparing for the Eucharist and assists director of religious education Surrenah Werley in the office. As a diocesan committee member for the Hispanic youth movement and Encuentro Promocion Juvenil, he helped build a strong youth program in the More... 

Cynthia Solis: Leading the Youth

Published: August 28, 2015   

Cynthia Solis admits with a laugh that her life at St. Andrew Church in Danville has been “busy.” The 26-year-old lectors, helps count monetary donations, has served as a catechist for 11 years and last year took over as the volunteer director of religious education, overseeing about 100 children. This is all in addition to a full-time job as a preschool teacher assistant. “If it’s in my ability to help, I’ll do it,” Solis said. She went to More... 

Adam Smith: The Go-To Volunteer

Published: August 28, 2015   

The St. Joseph Church in Pine Bluff staff is hard-pressed to remember a time when Adam Smith ever turned down an opportunity to lend a helping hand. From being an extra “handy-man” to assisting with spaghetti suppers, the Arkansas Tech University sophomore just does not say no. “The church doesn’t call you because they want to, they call because they need you,” the 19-year-old said. This desire to help started with altar serving. Smith said he made More... 

Luke Stovall: Putting Young Adults to Work

Published: August 28, 2015   

Luke Stovall decided he would quit searching for a church group that meets the unique volunteer needs of a young Catholic in the working world. Instead, he founded the diocesan-approved Catholic Young Professionals Service Organization. “I’ve always enjoyed volunteering,” Stovall said. “I literally just got on the horn with several different organizations including Habitat for Humanity, Our House and Arkansas Food Bank and asked, ‘What do you need we can get people to help out?’ ” The More... 

Jennifer Verkamp: A Heart for Children

Published: August 28, 2015   

Jennifer Verkamp has two good reasons why she is following her heart. Twin sisters, from Guatemala, adopted into the family when they were 14 months old, have been influential in Verkamp’s decisions to follow her heart’s desire to reach out to immigrant, orphaned and refugee children. Growing up in Charleston, Verkamp saw life beyond the borders. While a college student at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, she traveled to Honduras to work with the More... 

Taylor Wilkerson: Theological Bookworm

Published: August 28, 2015   

It may take a lifetime for a Catholic to ever dig into theology, if it happens at all. For Taylor Wilkerson, it started in middle school. “I studied theology books on my own, I’ve always been kind of a bookworm,” Wilkerson said. “As a Catholic in a southern public school, I was asked a lot of questions about my faith by my peers. You know the sort of questions I’m talking about — the ones about More...