In a major development Archbishop Charles Chaput has bolstered the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s ministry to youth and young adults through the appointment of Jacob King to the newly created post of director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry and at the same time Megan Mastroianni has been appointed associate director, it was announced June 22.

Both King, 31, and Mastroianni, 29, were chosen after a nationwide search, and their appointments are effective July 5.

(Read about their life’s journeys in our Profile section.)

The precise nature of their work has not been prescribed at this time because in coming months they will develop the vision and plan for their ministry in collaboration with the archbishop and after learning about existing programs from those already working in youth ministry, according to an archdiocesan official involved with the hiring.

Those consultors in parishes and schools include youth-group leaders, CYO directors, school ministers, officials in the Office for Catholic Education and others.

After hiring two additional staff members, the team eventually is expected to run archdiocesan-wide programs and assist with parish-based initiatives.

“I’m very pleased that our local church has found a viable way to revitalize and reinvigorate ministry focused on serving youth and young adults,” Archbishop Chaput said in a statement. “In an increasingly secular society that marginalizes the message of the Gospel, our young people need to be engaged in their faith in immersive ways that are infused with the zeal of the Holy Spirit.

“This newly revived program is vital to bolstering the work done in our parishes and schools. It will contribute greatly to the holistic formation of our young people as they work to develop a mature identity based on the example of Jesus Christ.

“I’m grateful to Mr. Jacob King and Ms. Megan Mastroianni for accepting the responsibility to lead these efforts and I’m confident that their experience, energy, and innovative spirit will bear much fruit. I send them my prayerful best wishes as they prepare to embrace their new roles.”

Jacob King, director of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's Youth and Young Adult Ministry. (Sarah Webb)

Jacob King, director of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry. (Sarah Webb)

King, 31, is originally from Portland, Michigan and earned his degree in theology from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio in 2009. He is currently completing his master’s degree.

King taught theology and Latin for two years at Sacred Heart High School in Coraopolis, Pa. Most recently he has been engaged in youth and young adult ministry at St. John’s University Parish in Morgantown, West Virginia with parish ministry and campus ministry at the University of West Virginia.

Jacob and his wife, Ashley, are the parents of two children, 3-year-old Therese and Noah, one and a half, with another baby girl due in November.

“I feel humbled and excited. I can’t wait to be of service to those who are in youth and young adult ministry,” King said. “My goal as director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry is first to be a servant to those who have the greatest ability to reach the youth, to build a relationship with them. It is to help them in whatever they need.”

Megan Mastroianni, associate director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Megan Mastroianni, associate director of Youth and Young
Adult Ministry for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Mastroianni is originally from Rotterdam, near Schenectady, N.Y., and is also by coincidence a 2009 graduate of Franciscan University in Steubenville, although she and King were not acquainted. Her degree was in psychology but her work since graduation has been in youth ministry.

After Steubenville she came to the Philadelphia area as a volunteer at first, and then an employee with Generation Life as a speaker on pro-life and chastity issues for youths. For the past three years she has been campus minister at Mount de Sales Academy, an all-girls secondary school in Baltimore.

She returned to Philadelphia last September to give two presentations at the Youth Conference of the World Meeting of Families.

“My whole desire is to do the Lord’s will,” Mastroianni said. “I need a lot of prayer to do this work. Really, the heart of this is to get the people of Philadelphia excited for the Lord, to give them the opportunity to meet him and to give them the opportunity to go deeper into their faith.”

Although this ministry to youth and young adults is a new direction for the Philadelphia Archdiocese it is not entirely new here. For many years there was a very robust central Office for Youth and Young Adults which as recently as 2003 had 30 employees, according to one report.

In 2012 the programs centrally administered by OYYA from the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center were transitioned to locally based programs run by individual parishes and schools. That action was part of broad reaching measures taken by the archdiocese at the time to reduce an annual recurring operating deficit that stood at nearly $17 million following the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

The recurring operating deficit was reduced to approximately $700,000 following the 2014-2015 fiscal year, but according to archdiocesan spokesman Ken Gavin, the archdiocese still does not possess the fiscal resources to re-establish a functional youth and young adult ministerial outreach.

The funding source for the newly launched effort is separate from the archdiocesan operating budget. It is rooted in Catholic Life 2000, a capital campaign conducted throughout the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in the early 1990s.

As part of the campaign’s goal, $4 million was to be raised for a new Youth Spirituality Center. The campaign raised $3.3 million for this initiative, but the center was never built.

For over two decades, these restricted funds have been compounding interest and now total approximately $11 million.

The archdiocese recently petitioned the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Orphans’ Court Division, seeking to modify the original charitable purpose as outlined in Catholic Life 2000.

The court approved the proposed modification allowing for all but $1 million to be held as endowment funds to support youth and young adult ministry.

The budget for this new department will be limited to an annual draw of approximately 5 percent of the endowment principal. In accord with the court-approved modification, the remaining $1 million has been set aside for capital purposes.

According to Gavin, that amount could be used for the purchase, rental, and/or renovation of a facility or residence to be used by young adults who wish to share a life of prayer in a community of faith.

At any rate, the money donated by archdiocesan Catholics almost a quarter-century ago should fund the new Youth and Young Adult Ministry very well.