The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

15 Catholic young adults who inspire us, 2016

If you have doubts or fears about the future of the Church, talk to an active young adult Catholic and be inspired. Many of them are working in ministry full time, part time or even as volunteers and leading others to Christ and toward service. They are single, married, parents and college students.

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 1986 to 1998).

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


Andrew & Katie Baka: Youth whispers for Christ

Published: August 26, 2016   

Andrew and Katie Baka began their journey in youth ministry simply by being asked to get involved. First, they volunteered and now Katie Baka, also a dental hygienist, is the part-time youth director at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Benton, with her husband Andrew assisting with high school CYM. “It just seemed like we were being drawn,” Katie, 28, said, who also is involved with Cursillo. “Part of Cursillo is studying. You have to know More... 

Loren Bennett: Totally yours

Published: August 26, 2016   

Instead of relaxing after a long school year, Loren Bennett, 20, devoted her summer interning with Totus Tuus — which translates to ‘totally yours’ — in her home diocese of Tyler, Texas. “We study the glorious mysteries (of the rosary) and the Our Father and talk about the difficulties of prayer and how to fix it,” working with elementary and high school students, she said. “ … We go to daily Mass and adoration.” Bennett, a junior More... 

Jennifer Elder: Mother on a mission

Published: August 26, 2016   

Jennifer Elder’s life is focused on showing her children, Michael, 8, and Carlie, 6, two things — work hard to achieve your dreams and give back. Between working full time as an office manager and being a single mother, Elder, 29, earned a degree in interdisciplinary studies in May 2015. “It took me 10 years to finish my bachelor’s degree, but I made it,” Elder said. “… I wanted to show the kids when you want More... 

Florencia Bruzatori-Mullins: Singing a hopeful song

Published: August 26, 2016   

Florencia “Flo” Bruzatori-Mullins, 30, shares her faith through music. As a married mother of three children — Mateo, 6, Isabella, 3, and Nico, 9 months — she encourages bursting into song as a means of communication in her home. An Argentinian native who moved to the United States with her parents at 16, Bruzatori-Mullins has dedicated her life to singing in the choir at St. Anne Church in North Little Rock. While she enjoys being a More... 

Jennifer Marie Chavez: Following God’s will

Published: August 26, 2016   

Jennifer Marie Chavez, youth leader and Bible class coordinator, has followed the holy example of her parents. A member of St. Barbara Church in De Queen all her life, Chavez has helped build the youth group from three teens at first to 75 youths now. Chavez considers it an honor to serve her church. “It’s amazing how God has a purpose for each one of us,” she said. “As I keep learning more about our Lord, I’m More... 

Mary Engledowl: A heart for children

Published: August 26, 2016   

When Mary Engledowl, 26, heard Matthew Kelley, author and speaker, challenge Catholics to become more engaged in their faith, she listened. “It inspired me to become a more engaged Catholic so I can grow closer to Christ and live out my purpose,” she explained. Engledowl is intentional in her life’s mission. Currently she attends the University of Arkansas where she plans to graduate in 2019 with her master’s degree in teaching and pursue her dream job of More... 

Jesus and Juan Antonio Garcia: On the same page

Published: August 26, 2016   

Immaculate Conception parishioners Jesus and Juan Antonio Garcia share many common interests. The brothers, who are both single, work together as semi-trailer mechanics in Fort Smith and participate together in many areas of parish life. Jesus teaches sixth-grade parish religious education classes, and Juan teaches first communicants. “When I was about 19, I felt God was calling me to teach PRE,” Jesus said. “Surennah (Werley, director of religious education) encouraged Juan and me to teach and took us More... 

Hannah Price and Marc Gates: Engaged in the faith

Published: August 26, 2016   

The fact that Jacksonville natives Hannah Price, 25, and Marc Gates, 26, grew up to become husband and wife isn’t particularly surprising. The couple, who will marry Sept. 24, have known each other most of their lives, growing up in the parish religious education, altar server and youth ministry activities at St. Jude Church in Jacksonville. What does set the twosome apart is the lengths to which they have gone to pass the faith along. In More... 

Kasen Goodwin: Count on me

Published: August 26, 2016   

Kasen Goodwin, who works as an environmental services tech at Christus St. Michael Health System, thinks of St. Edward Church in Texarkana as his second home. “I have attended St. Edward since I was born on Thanksgiving Day, 1995,” he said.   Goodwin, 20, serves as an usher and assistant to catechists. He is also a member of the Knights of Columbus.  He said of his ushering duties, “When I was about 9 or 10, I knew I More... 

Josue Rangel: Overcoming fear to help others

Published: August 26, 2016   

As a volunteer in Hispanic ministries through St. Anne Church in Berryville, Josue Rangel shows people how to overcome their fears over expressing their faith openly. He’s particularly good at it, largely because he knows exactly how they feel. “Whenever I was younger, I would always think how can I talk to someone or help someone that’s older than I am,” said Rangel, 23, a criminal justice major at North Arkansas College in Harrison. “For me, More... 

Melissa Gramlich: Fostering young faith

Published: August 26, 2016   

After attending Catholic schools in Dallas, Melissa Gramlich knew that if she pursued teaching after earning her master’s degree, it would be in a Catholic school. Despite the “are you crazy” looks from fellow student teachers, salary cannot top service to God. She has taught fifth grade at Christ the King School in Little Rock for three years, starting out in pre-K for a year. “It’s about responding to that call, not looking at the numbers More... 

MaryClaire Guanzon: Singing his praises

Published: August 26, 2016   

When MaryClaire Guanzon was 8 years old, she was diagnosed with a rare blood vessel disease that threatened her life while on vacation in her family’s native Philippines. After she survived, her parents began bringing her to daily Mass on Wednesdays and Fridays at St. Mark Church in Monticello. It’s a tradition she keeps 10 years later. “My parents wanted to thank the Lord for me being alive pretty much,” said Guanzon, who recently graduated as More... 

Adam Koehler: Hog wild for the faith

Published: August 26, 2016   

When rooting for the Razorbacks is your passion, then working on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville is where passion meets purpose. Since July 2015, Adam Koehler, a UA graduate, has been serving in campus ministry at St. Thomas Aquinas University Parish. With one year under his belt, Koehler knows the first weeks of college are pivotal for reaching out to students to help them find a sense of community at the parish More... 

Mariana Rivera: Spirit of a missionary

Published: August 26, 2016   

As a child, all Mariana Rivera wanted to do was make a “difference in the world, make people smile, make people happy.” This month, she’ll do just that, beginning her 10-month missionary work at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, thanks to the faith foundation set at Catholic Campus Ministry at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in public relations. As a missionary, her salary is donation-based and she More... 

Rebecca Roebuck: Let it all out

Published: August 26, 2016   

Rebecca Roebuck, 21, a member of Christ the King Church in Fort Smith, is beginning her senior year at Oklahoma State University studying strategic communications and minoring in Spanish. As a high school student, she attended several Catholic Heart Work Camps with Christ the King’s religious education program and spent summers as a counselor at Kanakuk Kamp, an interdenominational camp in Missouri. She also leads a Bible study group at Oklahoma State University. When her older sister More...