In today’s world, it is distressingly common for people to leave the Catholic Church at a young age. According to the PEW Research Center, 79% of former Catholics leave the Church before the age of 23, with only 7% of millennials who were raised Catholic still actively practicing their faith today. Not coincidentally, rates of loneliness and anxiety are at an all-time high as well, making it clear: something must be done to help guide younger generations back to Christ. Christendom alumni are taking on this mission across America as missionaries with Catholic Sports, working hard to help address the needs of young adults everywhere.
Alumna Theresa (Francis) Bosnyak (’14) is one of those alumni, serving as the National Program Director for Catholic Sports, a non-profit ministry organization. Back in 2017, Bosnyak felt a calling to help today’s youth, seeing the need for a revival of the Catholic faith in America.
“As a society, we have lost our country’s foundational Christian roots in our day to day lives,” says Bosnyak, who earned her Bachelor’s degree in history from Christendom. “’In God We Trust’ has become more of a cultural slogan than an actual practice. Ministries like Catholic Sports are sorely needed to speak and witness to the truth again. We do so through meeting people where they are at, and simply inviting them to play sports. Through getting to know them in the sports leagues we run, we can then follow the stages of evangelization to grow deeper with them.”
Catholic Sports is in its eleventh year and continues to grow rapidly, welcoming people from all backgrounds and faith journeys. The organization’s vision “to build young adult community everywhere” has found great success, with young adults joining the organization’s sports leagues, men’s and women’s Bible studies, and other social events.
In her role with the organization, Bosnyak handles hiring, managing, training, mentoring, and guiding each missionary across the nation. Bosnyak firmly believes that her formation at Christendom helped guide her as she strives to connect with others and pass on her Faith.
“My time as a student at Christendom truly ‘locked in’ my accepting, believing, and practicing the Catholic faith as my own,” says Bosnyak. “In addition, it was crucial to my growth in knowledge of the Church’s foundational teachings. I could not be more grateful for my education there.”
Alumna Helena Briggs (‘19) also felt a stirring to evangelize to young adults following her graduation. Currently based in Alexandria, Virginia, Briggs serves as an outreach coordinator for Catholic Sports. Because the organization is new to the Northern Virginia area, Briggs regularly attends diocesan events and other social functions in order to recruit participants and gain support for the mission.
“Evangelization is very much needed in our society today because there is such a growing percentage of young adult Catholics falling away from the faith,” explains Briggs, who majored in philosophy. “Research came out a few years ago that found that 93% of millennials lose the faith, either from a lack of interest or an outright rejection of the Church. There are many factors that play into that fact but, whatever the case, that is appalling. In general, the culture that we live in is so anti-Catholic and anti-religious, with a heightened emphasis on people’s freedom to choose what they think is right or wrong, leading to moral relativism which ends up dividing people all over the world in countless ways.”
Briggs feels confident that her formation through Christendom equipped her with the necessary tools to bring Christ’s healing love into the lives of others who do not yet know Him fully.
“I believe that the fully integrated core curriculum at Christendom truly taught me and my fellow classmates how to live as Catholics and to prioritize our lives so that we do all things with Eternity in mind and Christ in our hearts. As Catholics we are all called to be missionaries, to restore all things in Christ, and one of the best ways to evangelize is to ourselves become disciples of the One to Whom we conform our lives to and imitate so that others don’t see us, but Jesus Christ.”
Inspired by the courageous witness of her fellow alumni, Johanna Burke (’19), felt the urgency to join this great mission as well. Through the ministry, she has learned to rely more fully on God, and she attributes any successes to daily prayer and trust in Divine Providence.
“The most important habit I took away from Christendom was and continues to be daily prayer,” says Burke, who earned her degree in philosophy. “Being in an atmosphere and amongst peers who helped me learn how to pray was one of the biggest blessings of my life thus far. While at Christendom, daily Mass and daily mental prayer became the pillars of my spiritual life, and now they are the utter lifeline of my ministry. The success of one’s ministry directly correlates to one’s dependence on God, which of course is only fueled through prayer.”
Because their salaries are fully funded by benefactors, these alumni must continue to trust in Providence for their daily income. Burke notes that the generosity of the Christendom community made it possible for her to pursue this calling, where she is now able to encounter and connect with people from many different backgrounds in her missionary work in Denver, Colorado. From spending time with Capuchin friars on the volleyball court to engaging in more personal conversations with young adults about the faith, Burke strives to bring Christ’s love to all she meets.
“I have only been in this ministry for a short time,” says Burke, “but I have already been blown away by the conversations I have been privileged to have. The Holy Spirit really does move through individual friendships and conversations – it’s amazing to witness.”
Thanks to the efforts of these alumni, young people are encountering the joy of Christ on volleyball courts, soccer fields, bible studies, and beyond, all while being drawn closer to the Catholic faith. Like alumni serving in FOCUS and other ministries, they are proving each day that the tide of secularism can be turned — all it takes are simple moments of outreach and community, fueled by the desire of all Christendom alumni to “restore all things in Christ.”