Get to know this vibrant ‘kaleidoscope of people’ from across diocese

By Emily E. Long
Contributing writer

If you look in the pews on Sunday morning, you might struggle to find young adults. If you are looking for some hope for the future of the Church, meet the Syracuse Frassati Fellowship! This dynamic group of about 20 young Catholics meets at 7 p.m. Wednesdays at St. Rose of Lima Church in North Syracuse to grow in their faith together.

The group often takes to the outdoors for hikes in a way that’s strikingly similar to its namesake. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, an Italian who died at the age of 24 in 1925, was an avid outdoorsman and a devout Catholic. He’d often bring groups of friends on hikes and was known to lead the group in praying the rosary or bring his friends along to Mass.

When Anna Butler, 31, returned to Syracuse after living around New York post-college, she looked for a group of young Catholics to join. She had been a part of Frassati groups in Albany, Buffalo and Pittsburgh. For Syracuse though? Nothing.

“When I moved back to Syracuse in 2021, there was not a single young adult group here that was active right now. So my method is just to start my own thing. If I’m not being ministered to, I will start my own ministry,” said Anna, who was an integral part of the Catholic community while at SUNY ESF.

After “pretty intense” prayer she decided to start seriously looking into starting something.

Luckily, she ran into two enthusiastic young men, Mark Heath and Steven Conrad, at diocese-sponsored young-adults events, such as Bishop Douglas J. Lucia’s Young Adults Hike in 2021, and the trio’s hiking together led to the Syracuse Frassati Fellowship.

Frassati members helping with a neighborhood leaves cleanup in the fall of 2022.

The four tenets

Meetings are centered around four tenets — catechism, spirituality, friendship and service — of Blessed Frassati’s life. Catechism nights tackle hot-button social issues; spirituality nights include discussions of the lives of the saints or Eucharistic miracles; and social nights entail campfires or hikes. One extremely fruitful tenet is service.

On one particular service night, members helped clean headstones at the North Syracuse Cemetery, removing moss and weeding overgrown vegetation.

“Cleaning headstones was a service project that I found really gratifying,” said Diane Walker, 33, from Syracuse. “Some graves were very overgrown and needed tending to. Taking a part of my week to do this gave me peace helping others even after they had passed. Knowing that I could be of service to families who might not have the ability to travel to see loved ones on a consistent basis really made a difference.”

Anna added that a favorite project was to “put together Ziploc bags to be kits with food and water and first aid supplies.” The bags serve a special purpose. “If you are driving and see someone in need, you can have something to hand to that person that might be helpful.”

The meetings are diverse and draw young Catholics from across the Diocese of Syracuse. Occupations include teaching, engineering and working in ministry. The group also has welcomed new Catholics and those who are thinking about joining the Church.

The Frassati Fellowship at the end of a day of service at the Road to Emmaus Ministry.

Blessings of fellowship

Jim Gilfert, 29, from Oneida, started attending Frassati while attending RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) classes.

“I started coming to Frassati as I was being received into the Catholic Church when my RCIA instructor told me about it,” he said. “I was eager to meet some friends in the faith and it has been a great way to do that. It is a welcoming group and I’ve been blessed by the fellowship and spiritual activities we do each week.”

For Rosanne Trevail, a student at Upstate Medical University from Morrisonville, N.Y., joining an active young Catholic adult group was a must.

“Here, I have found positive and welcoming people who also hold dear the Catholic faith, bringing it with them into their daily lives,” said Trevail.

If you are thinking about attending a meeting, listen to Mark Heath: “To all the young adults out there between the ages of 18 and 39, you would absolutely love Frassati, there is such a kaleidoscope of people here. We’re very fun, very loving, very accepting. And just come give it a try, I think you’ll like it.”

Emily E. Long, of LaFayette, is a member of the Frassati Fellowship at St. Rose of Lima. She works for the Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse.

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