Members of Missionary Souls find fellowship in worship, service, and even a trip to the beach.
Fr. Jorge Achoa helped a struggling parish group transform itself into this vibrant new community of Missionary Souls.
Covina’s Missionary Souls Transforms Lives
By: Maura Lamb
“Youth is for taking risks, good risks, risks full of hope. It is meant to be staked on great things. Youth is meant to be given away, to help others know the Lord. Don’t keep your youth to yourselves — get out there!” said Pope Francis at the 37th National Convocation of the renewal in the Holy Spirit.
This is exactly what the Comboni Mission Center in Covina, California, is doing with its Missionary Souls young adult ministry. Through empowering and fun meetings in which they get to worship and celebrate together, Missionary Souls is bringing young people together to do mission as St. Daniel Comboni once did.
The young people of Missionary Souls have accomplished a lot. Initially comprised solely of Spanish speakers, the group has now evolved into a bilingual force, welcoming English speakers with open arms. United in a close-knit group, twenty-six vibrant young adults converge to explore their faith, engage in holy hours, and partake in worship nights. They even have their own band.
Attracting and retaining young individuals who are attuned to their faith has been an ongoing challenge for the Church, but the Covina Mission Center has discovered a way to bridge this gap. By actively engaging with the community and leading by example, they effortlessly draw people in.
Curious friends observe the radiant positivity and sense of purpose in the lives of those involved with Missionary Souls and can’t help but wonder, “How do they radiate such joy?” Gabriela Delgado, the group’s secretary and one of its coordinators, confidently points to Missionary Souls as the answer.
A pivotal aspect of the Missionary Souls experience is their monthly “Rise Up” Catechesis meeting, designed to prepare the group for its forthcoming journey to World Youth Day (WYD) in Lisbon, Portugal. One of the core themes woven into their training sessions is “Mary arose and left without delay.”
Pope Francis himself spearheads World Youth Day, an event that has captivated the attention of these young people. Covina’s contingent, joining a larger group of 120 young adults, will have an extraordinary opportunity to visit the sanctuary of Fatima on July 31, before continuing their pilgrimage to Lisbon, where they will be guided by the WYD team through a myriad of transformative activities.
Reflecting on one of her most cherished memories, Delgado shares, “I captured a video of everyone during our Rise Up Catechesis meeting, and when I watched it later, the sight of everyone smiling warmed my heart.” On that occasion, the group had gathered on the beach, engrossed in a painting activity. It was an experience of joy and camaraderie that words can scarcely capture.
For many members of Missionary Souls, the journey began from a place of emptiness, yearning for purpose and hope in their lives. In Missionary Souls they find friends, faith, and family. Not everyone’s back stories are pretty, but when they join, something clicks. The mission makes it right.
What makes this ministry attractive to young people seems to be the free-spirited nature of its leaders, coordinators, and ways of connecting with God. As the program continues to inspire and ignite the flames of faith within the hearts of young people, it harnesses the extraordinary power of these young adults. They possess a spirit of taking bold risks, giving selflessly, and impacting lives for the better. In this bustling California town, a profound revolution is taking place — one driven by the irrepressible force of youth on a mission to change the world.
Maura Lamb is an editorial assistant interning for the Comboni Missionaries North American Province.