Basketball and softball games for young adults.
A Middle School Youth Day at Knott’s Berry Farm.
Providing ongoing training and formation opportunities for youth leaders across the diocese.
These are just a few examples of the varied and vibrant offerings provided by the Office of Youth & Young Adult Ministry (YYA) at the Diocese of Orange.
Under the leadership of Director Armando Cervantes, the YYA has become a vital vehicle for high school students and adults ages 18 to 39 to become more connected to their faith.
Two full-time employees who work under Cervantes – Catherine Ord, Youth Ministry Programs coordinator, and Cecilia Phan, Young Adult Ministry coordinator – keep the engines of the YYA humming.
Phan and Ord are assisted by another full-time employee, Administrative Assistant Leandra La Fon, and a part-time employee, Karlo Campana, who coordinates sports events for young adults.
On a recent weekday, the always-busy Ord and Phan took a brief breather to talk about the mission of the YYA, and how their faith has made their jobs more of a calling than a means of earning a paycheck.
“My faith has directed why I’m doing this ministry,” Ord says.
The two women, both married and in their 30s (Ord has three children, ages 6, 4, and 1), were preparing for a large youth and young adult conference at the Anaheim Convention Center that week.
Further out on the calendar is the dedication of the new Christ Cathedral on July 17. Ord and Phan are busy planning dedication ceremonies for both youth and young adults at the landmark event.
“It’s about who God is calling me to be and how I allow God to work with me and use my gifts to be able to do something that is greater than myself,” says Phan, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Cal State Long Beach and got her master’s degree in pastoral theology at Loyola Marymount University.
Ord and Phan have been in their positions since 2015.
“They’re fabulous,” says Sister Katherine “Kit” Gray, director of Mission Integration and Ongoing Formation at Christ Cathedral. “They’re committed. They’re creative. They make great connections between and among people. They are team players, and I love to work with them.”
Previously, two full-time employees were devoted to Youth Ministry, which oversees programs for some 15,000 confirmation teens (freshman and sophomores) that are enrolled in parish programs. Youth Ministry serves high schools and helps support middle school programs. Elementary-aged students fall under the diocese’s Faith Formation office.
Phan develops programs for the 237,000 young adults (ages 18 to 39) who are registered ad Catholics in Orange County.
“It’s expanding quickly in terms of the number of young adults who are rising up to say, ‘I want to do something,’” Phan says.
Ord mainly works hands-on with youth ministers at parishes. The youth ministers – some of who have master’s degrees, some who have certifications but still are in college and living at home – typically are full-time employees who work directly with high school students.
“I train the youth ministers who work directly with the teens,” Ord explains. “They often are dealing with crisis and such things as depression and anxiety.”
Phan seeks to meet the four goals for Young Adult Ministry outlined by the U.S. Bishops’ pastoral plan for ministry with young adults: Connecting Young Adults to Jesus Christ, to the Church, to the Church’s mission, and to the community.
Components of the Young Adult Ministry range from book clubs to retreats to programs for the newly married, to trips and pilgrimages to after-Mass gatherings to works of mercy in the community.
“When you’re looking at young adult ministry, you’re focusing on this 20-year span that encompasses a lot of transitioning in life,” says Phan, 32, who grew up in Anaheim and went to Katella High School. Her parish was St. Callistus, which now is Christ Cathedral.
“Most of what I do is curate and collect and bring people together,” Phan says.
Ord went to Fountain Valley High School and was youth minister at Holy Spirit Catholic Church for eight years. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and theology and a master’s degree in pastoral theology from Loyola Marymount.
“I really like being able to walk with youth ministers,” she says. “I like being able to form small faith communities with them to see where it is that they need the most support and training.
“I enjoy seeing them do good ministry, and I love when I get to go visit their parish and be part of their youth group and see how the young people are falling in love with God through their example. That’s my favorite part.”