Along with three other Salesian Sisters, Sr. Loretta will minister in St. Charles, IL, working in young adult ministry and adult faith formation at Saint Patrick Parish. Located about 45 minutes west of Chicago, the parish is booming with 4,500 families and faithful young adults.
"The last four years at the Youth Retreat Center have been a gift from God. I will miss it so much," Sr. Loretta said. "I hope the distance between New Jersey and Illinois gets smaller and smaller."
When first arriving at the Kearny center, she eagerly dove into working with young adults and felt right at home. "I was supposed to start my position in August, but I couldn't wait so I came in July," she recalled. "I fell in love with the place and felt it was perfect for me. There was great ministry already here. These young adults were just waiting to be tapped into. The center is a holy place and I feel like God is here. It is a prayerful and fun place to gather."
Through her leadership, Young Adult Month was formed and Theology on Tap blossomed in the archdiocese. Held in January, Young Adult Month spiritually and sociality engages young adults with retreats, workshops and a trip to the March for Life in Washington D.C.
"I heard about young adults taking leadership in lay ministry in their parishes. When the first Young Adult Month started in 2006, I was amazed at the number of people who showed up. There was this incredible sense of Church present here."
The young leaders who frequent the Youth Retreat Center are saddened by Sr. Loretta's departure, but are grateful for the indelible mark she leaves on their faith. On June 19, a celebration was held in the dining hall of the center and everyone shared their love and support for Sr. Loretta and wished her well.
"The young people are disappointed that I am leaving, but many have said that I have empowered them to do more. I feel like I have received more than I have given. These young adults continue to inspire me. The young adults are like the flowers growing out of the rocks. In a culture of death, they are vibrant and full of life; they energize me and give me passion," she explained.
During her time at the Archdiocesan Youth Retreat Center, Sr. Loretta organized a monthly Festival of Praise. Held at a different parish every month, young adults participated in Eucharistic Adoration with music and social activities. The Kearny center also had workshops on creating a young adult-responsive parish. She credits priests and bishops of the archdiocese for reaching out to young people.
"Young adults want to gather, but they need a pastor and a community that is open to them. The archdiocese has been so open and priests have shown great enthusiasm. Some parishes are under financial straits and cannot hire a full-time youth minister. We have tried to support and train these parishes."
Sr. Loretta cites Al Forsythe, director of youth and young adult ministry, as a major influence in her work at the Kearny center. "I am grateful to have worked in an environment open to ideas. Al likes when there is life and enthusiasm."
Forsythe believes young people responded well to Sr. Loretta due to her genuine and welcoming spirit. "She has a passion for young adult ministry. She affirmed the young adults' gifts and empowered them. She makes young people feel like the work they are doing is important."
Sr. Loretta is proud to have helped young adults connect with other faithful youth. As a result of the sense of community at the Youth Retreat Center, two young women have entered the order of Salesian Sisters and five young couples who bonded at the center plan on getting married. She hopes that young adults continue to grow in their faith.
"I am grateful for my four years here and I feel like I have touched the grace of God. I hope the ministry continues and that the young adults continue to develop their gifts. I want them to keep the fire burning and let nothing stop them in God's plan for their lives."
She encourages young adults not to be afraid and continue on in their mission to spread the Gospel. Content with being behind-thescenes, Sr. Loretta is appreciative of the work of youth ministers who volunteered their time and talent to the center. "I like to motivate others. I'm not the one that does all the work. I don't want to think everything will fall apart because I am not here. Each person uses their gifts."