Spotlight on Members of the Commission for Young Adults

John Pellosie

John Pellosie, Parishioner of St. Joseph the Worker, Orefield

Biographical background
John Pellosie, 24, parishioner of St. Joseph the Worker, Orefield. He is a 2017 graduate of DeSales University, Center Valley. He earned a bachelor of science degree in finance and accounting and is employed as a financial planning specialist at Legacy Planning Partners.

How were you raised in the faith?
My parents are lifelong Catholics, as were their parents and parents’ parents, likely all the way back to the Coliseum. So I am blessed to have always had faith present in my life.

My formal religious education started in kindergarten at St. Joseph the Worker School, where I finished eighth grade in 2009. I credit this education for contributing much to the long-term development and nurturing of my Catholic faith. I attended Parkland High School, and while there I was able to stay in touch with the priests at my parish (especially Monsignor Joseph Smith) to keep me connected to my spiritual life.

But it was at DeSales that I would become most active in my faith – participating extensively in campus ministry initiatives, studying the great tradition of Salesian spirituality, and attending the March for Life.

Why did you accept the opportunity to serve on the commission?
I have accepted this appointment in the hopes that I can serve as an ambassador of the Church to young adults who have either never been truly exposed to Catholicism, or whose faith has fallen by the wayside.

We know that the statistics are sobering: studies have shown that less than 66 percent of Millennials who were raised Catholic remain practicing into adulthood. As a part of this generation, I hope to relate to the challenges these young adults face, and through this commission aspire to find ways to lead them back to their spiritual home in the Church.

What are some of the issues you would like to see addressed and why?
A frequent topic among young Catholics is around the liturgy of the Mass, and making sure that it reflects the true beauty and majesty of our faith. I think it is also important that we address some of the misconceptions that surround our faith, such as the false dichotomy between science and Catholicism. Many studies have shown that misunderstandings of what Catholicism actually is and teaches have caused people to leave the Church.

Last, I would like to see us develop clear and concise ways to educate and explain to young adults how the tenants of our faith apply to the social issues we face today. The goal of these proposed solutions is to demonstrate to young adults that the Catholic Church is a source of eternal and authentic truths that are very relevant in the modern world.

Young adults, in this age of carefully curated Instagram profiles, are yearning for authenticity. What is more authentic than an institution that has existed for more than 2,000 years in the face of persecution and ridicule? This is the overarching message I hope I can help the commission to share.

Why are young adults so important to the future of the Church?
The young adults of today become the parents and leaders of tomorrow. They are quite literally the future of our Church and our society. As I mentioned previously, we cannot take for granted that young adults who were raised Catholic will continue to practice their faith. As a church we need to proactively reach out to them and engage with them.

There is so much “noise” in the world today, and there are many different groups with various agendas competing for the attention of young adults. We must not allow the message of Christ to be drowned out by all the noise, and we must ensure that young adults can hear us.

What do you believe has caused some young adults to drift from the Church, and how can the Church reach out to them?
I think there are several related reasons for why young adults have drifted away from the Church and the practice of religion in general. The first is the increased acceptance of subjective/relativist morality and the rejection of objective truth. This leads to a popular culture that says “you can do and be anything you want, even if it defies natural law, as long as it makes you ‘happy.”

Key virtues of our faith, such as self-sacrifice and temperance, do not fit well with this hedonistic worldview. It then follows popular culture and media is ever increasingly hostile toward the Church and its teachings.

And certainly the recent scandal can inject doubts about the Church into the minds of young adults. Despite these significant challenges, I believe there are ways that we can win back those who have left church. The first is to continue to demonstrate that relativism and hedonism do not bring true happiness – I think many young adults deep down understand this, and are open to finding ways to achieve true fulfillment, which our faith provides.

I also think we can do a better job of showcasing the tremendous beauty and value of Catholic culture. The ritual, art, music and customs of the Church are powerful tools of evangelization. We need to present the culture of Catholicism as a unique, attractive and profound alternative to the often vapid and superficial popular culture we experience today.

In light of the clergy abuse crisis, how and why did you remain steadfast in the faith?
As I’m sure many other Catholics can relate, the scandal aroused a variety of emotions: anger and disgust at the perpetrators and those who covered up their heinous actions; incredible sorrow for the victims; and confusion and disappointment at the response by some at the very top of our Church’s leadership.

I believe that this crisis poses an existential threat to the Church’s ability to effectively evangelize. How the Church chooses to respond will go a long way in determining how successful our efforts will be in the decades to come.

Why do I remain steadfast in my faith? Because I believe that the Catholic Church was founded by the Son of God to share the message of salvation with the world. I believe that the Catholic Church contains the fullness of truth, which has been passed down to us from the apostles. And if I truly believe those things, then how could I walk away?

Despite the terrible actions of some members of the clergy, and the pain they cause me as a member of the Church, they do not diminish the truth of our faith nor absolve us of the mission Christ gave us as his disciples.

I had the honor of meeting with Bishop Schlert one-on-one, and I was amazed by his desire to know my feelings on the crisis, and his openness and candor in discussing it. I am relieved to see that our Diocese is responding to the crisis very seriously, and is continuing to ensure that this type of abuse is prevented from happening and is properly dealt with immediately.

Emily Whalen, Parishioner of St. Joseph the Worker, Orefield

Biographical background
Emily Whalen, parishioner of St. Joseph the Worker, Orefield, and raised in the Lehigh Valley. Works as a social and digital media manager at Moravian College, Bethlehem.

How were you raised in the faith?
Faith has always been central in our family. One of my favorite memories growing up was getting ready for Christmas by saying “Hail and Blesseds” (the St. Anthony Novena) every night all together by the light of the Advent candle.
In more recent years, another thing that has brought our family together and strengthened our faith is teaching PREP together. We try to get students excited about their faith and teach them about the rich history that they’re a part of as Catholics.

Why did you accept the opportunity to serve on the commission?
My Catholic faith is very important to me, so I was very excited to be asked to serve on the commission and to have the opportunity to work with the other young adults to contribute in whatever ways we can to strengthen our faith and our community and our Church.

What are some of the issues you would like to see addressed and why?
One of the biggest issues weighing on me as a Catholic is the current crisis in the Church with the Grand Jury Report and Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s letters and the disappointment of the recent U.S. Bishops’ Conference.

I was very encouraged to hear from and talk with Bishop Alfred Schlert about the crisis at our first commission meeting, but in the Church as a whole there has been a failure at many different levels of the hierarchy to adequately respond. This needs to be addressed, and the laity need to speak up and speak out to help heal our Church.

Why are young adults so important to the future of the Church?
Today’s young adults are the future of the Church. We are the current link in the long chain of believers going all the way back to Christ, and soon it will be our job to pass the Catholic faith onto the next generation.

What do you believe has caused some young adults to drift from the Church, and how can the Church reach out to them?
It can be difficult to be different, and if you want to live out the Catholic faith in the midst of today's culture, you've got to be willing to stand apart and be different – to not necessarily watch the same shows and movies everybody else is talking about, to not necessarily dress or act the same way, to not laugh at certain jokes other people think are funny. I think that cultural peer pressure is part of the reason some young adults have fallen away from the Church.

Faith also requires sacrifice and disciple, and today’s culture often touts easy solutions that attract followers because they look attractive on the surface – but ultimately they’re hollow. Dorothy Day wrote, “People have so great a need to reverence, to worship, to adore; it is a psychological necessity of human nature that must be taken into account.”

As human beings, we’re built for God, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, and I think people want meaning and depth in their lives. Reaching out to those who have fallen away from the Church can be tricky, because in some ways we don’t share the same vocabulary. “Religion” and “church” can be pejorative words in today’s culture and can cause people to stop listening to you before you’ve even started.

We need to lovingly and humbly proclaim the richness of our faith rooted in Christ – a richness that’s waiting for everyone because Christ is waiting for everyone. We also need to be truthful and transparent. Our Church isn’t perfect, and faith is often a difficult road, but it’s when you're willing to be different and to be challenged that you live your fullest, deepest life.

In light of the clergy abuse crisis, how and why did you remain steadfast in the faith?
I was absolutely horrified and heartbroken when the Grand Jury Report came out in August, and I have never felt so shaken in my allegiance to the Catholic Church as I have over the past months. But as Peter said to Christ, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

I believe in Christ, and I want to help heal his Church, not abandon it. I’ve found the letters of St. Catharine of Siena to be an enormous source of wisdom and strength over the past months; she spoke out against corruption in the hierarchy and was dealing with many of the same kinds of issues we face today.

For thousands of years, great saints and faithful Catholics all around the world have put aside their own pride and sins to follow Christ no matter how hard the path – that is the true Catholic Church.