Jimmy and I grew up together in a small city called Seven Hills, Ohio just 15 minutes south of Cleveland. We had known each other since 2nd grade and had stayed relatively close friends ever since. After graduating high school and going into college, one of the things that kept us together as friends even after high school was our shared Catholic faith. We grew up in a public school system, so the number of young adults that we knew in our area was extremely limited. We had yearned to share our faith with a community of people with like-minded values but we did not know where to begin. From what we knew, parishes only offered activities and programs for the youth and seniors. We had felt like lost souls in the desert with no one else around. So one day, hanging out in Jimmy's basement during one of our typical spiritual and political discussions, we came to the idea of starting a young adult community.
At the time, we were in the spring semester of our sophomore college career and we had just received a new pastor at our home parish Fr. Anthony Suso. I introduced myself and offered up the idea and his immediate response was, "Absolutely!" From there we had various meetings to talk about what our vision and goal were for the group. During this time, we were meeting just before the feast of Pentecost. From there the name for the group, Catching Fire was born. Jimmy and I had no theological studies background. He was a marketing major and I myself was majoring in Mechanical Engineering. We were both cradle Catholics with a few retreats under our belt. This was the extent of our knowledge of evangelization or ministry. We were the least qualified people to teach or lead anyone about the Catholic faith, but I guess that's the beauty of it all.
On June 3rd, 2018, we went into our first session nervous and scared with no idea how it was going to go. What started with 6 or 7 people sitting around a single table anxious and uneasy in that first session had turned into 80+ people showing up every week just four years later. We had managed to receive people from all over the diocese from only word-of-mouth advertising. Some drive 1 hour a week just to meet people for the session. We quickly realized that we were providing a desperate need for the people in the Cleveland area. Young adults, in particular, yearn for community. Not just any community, but a group with like-minded values to share their Catholic Christian faith and to talk about real-world issues that the rest of the world is so afraid to talk about.
We now position ourselves to be a beacon of light and hope for the rest of the Catholic community. I can honestly say that we are building Catholic spiritual warriors that are being empowered and equipped with the gifts of the Holy Spirit to serve the rest of the world. This has been and will continue to be our mission, to set the world on fire.