For most students in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, participation in formal faith formation programming ends when they receive the sacrament of Confirmation.

A few years ago, Tina Angelo, a member of St. Andrew Parish in Drexel Hill, and Sue Killeen, a member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Drexel Hill, initiated a weekly faith formation program designed for students who had been confirmed. The goal was to help young people continue learning about their faith and keep them connected with the Church as they mature into young adulthood. These sessions were offered through the joint PREP program of St. Charles and St. Andrew Parishes in Drexel Hill and Sacred Heart Parish in Clifton Heights.

After a year of meeting weekly with students in a classroom, Angelo and Killeen realized they needed to change the format and frequency of the gatherings.

“Every week was way too much, but we wanted to do something that was faith-based and deliver it in a much different way than in a classroom,” Angelo said. “We felt that we could give the students a broader experience if we could bring more people in to talk to them. We thought it would be much more powerful if we could get more clergy involved to share their experiences and give young people more fellowship time together.”

Adjusting their approach to keeping young people engaged with their Catholic faith led to the formation of Delco Young Disciples. This ministry for Delaware County teens in grades 7-12 provides opportunities for them to grow in their faith and bring their talents and energy to their local parish and broader communities. The goal is to help teens encounter Christ through the beauty of worship, equip them for the journey toward eternity with Catholic faith formation, and energize them through Christ-like service to others.

To learn more about developing a youth ministry program, Angelo attended a Youth Ministry 101 course offered through the archdiocesan Office for Ministry with Youth. Staff from the Office for Ministry with Youth have provided guidance to the Delco Young Disciples planning team, and they also have attended the team’s monthly meetings.

Angelo and Killeen focused on inviting other parishes in Delaware County to get involved with hosting the monthly gatherings. This year the gatherings have been held at St. Andrew the Apostle, St. Bernadette and St. Charles Borromeo in Drexel Hill, and Annunciation B.V.M. in Havertown. Other parishes supporting this ministry include St. Laurence in Upper Darby and Sacred Heart in Clifton Heights.

Young adults enjoy breakfast for dinner at a gathering last month.

The monthly gatherings are called “Sunday Dinner with Jesus,” and the three main ingredients are faith, food, and fun, Angelo said. The faith formation is focused on the National Eucharistic Revival and helping the teens encounter Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and see how this relationship unfolds in their daily lives, she added.

Sunday Dinners with Jesus are held on the third Sunday of the month 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. The next gathering is on Sunday, April 21 at St. Andrew Parish. The theme will be, “Adoration: What You Really Need to Know.” On Sunday, May 19, the gathering will be held at St. Bernadette Parish in Drexel Hill. On Sunday, June 9, St. Laurence Parish will host ARISE! Youth Evening Adoration.

Angelo emphasized that organizing and hosting the monthly gatherings has been a team effort.

“It’s an intergenerational group of people working on this,” she said. “Parent volunteers help plan and prepare the food. We’ve got clergy involved, and we’re building a group of young adults to be a part of this ministry. We want the teens to see that there’s something to be learned from everybody at every part of their faith journey.”

At each gathering, a priest teaches the teens about different types of prayer or shares a reflection to help them better understand their faith.

Approximately 40 teens from several parishes in Delaware County have been attending the monthly gatherings, according to Angelo.

Msgr. George Majoros, pastor of St. Charles and Sacred Heart parishes, is the priest moderator for this new ministry.

Tina Angelo, Msgr. George Majoros, and Sue Killeen. (Photo: Elena Perri)

“We want to support the teens as they grow in their faith and encounter Jesus through various forms of worship, whether it be Mass, adoration, or prayer,” he said. “The gatherings give them the ability to share their faith with others, to create connections and ties with the small faith communities they’re building. It’s been great to see the beauty and the energy of our kids at the gatherings.”

Collaborating with other parishes has been a key aspect of this ministry to teens, Msgr. Majoros added.

“We could not do this on our own at St. Charles in Drexel Hill or Sacred Heart in Clifton Heights, but by uniting with our other parishes in Delaware County, we show the power of a Christian community,” he said. “We show the presence of God among us, and that’s who is calling our youth to a greater deeper relationship with Him. Hopefully that will ignite in them the desire to live and share their faith with one another and through service.”

For Chris Cardie, a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Springfield and a sophomore at Springfield High School, he enjoys having the opportunity to connect with peers and learn more about his faith.

“I really enjoy the camaraderie,” Cardie said. “It’s nice to see people who share your beliefs and like to do what you do. Learning about God and different methods of prayer has really deepened my faith. I enjoy socializing with the other people there, and the dinners they provide for us are really good.”

Cardie also has participated in a few of the monthly service activities. The teens hosted a Super Bowl Pep Rally with the residents of Catholic Social Services’ Don Guanella Village in February.

“We helped them play games, and it was lot of fun,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting to have that much fun there with the residents.”

The teens also wrote Easter cards for incarcerated people and sorted donations and restocked shelves at Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry, an all-volunteer organization in Prospect Park.

“That’s where you see the rubber hit the road because you see them put their faith in action by being the hands of Christ to others, and you see their excitement and joy for what they’re doing,” Msgr. Majoros added.

Sophie Civillico, a member of St. Andrew Parish and a seventh grader at Regina Coeli Academy in Abington, attends the gatherings because they are “really fun.”

“I love it so much,” Civillico said. “I like how we have time in the beginning to play with each other, and then we have a nice meal. It’s really nice when we get to break up into little groups and talk about what the priest said.”

Civillico also enjoys learning about various aspects of the Catholic faith from the priests who share a reflection during the gatherings.

“They talk about different things each time,” she said. “One priest talked about virtues and other priests have talked about the Holy Spirit and different types of prayers.”

The success of this ministry has been gratifying for Angelo, and she is hopeful about its future.

“I believe everything that’s happened so far has definitely been the Holy Spirit coming through,” Angelo said. “My hope is that the feedback we get from the young disciples and their parents is as positive as it appears to be at the actual events.”

The plan is to move forward with monthly gatherings and service opportunities that are offered from September through May, she added.

“This ministry for teens is something that is definitely needed,” Angelo said. “We need to help our youth really grab hold of their faith and realize that their personal relationship with Jesus is what it’s all about.”

For more information about Delco Young Disciples, visit here.