SCRANTON – After growing up and attending school in his native Ireland, Sean Savage’s faith journey has brought him to Saint Jude Parish in Mountain Top.

Savage is one of three new ECHO Apprentices from The University of Notre Dame that began serving local parishes and colleges in the Diocese of Scranton this August. Through an ongoing partnership with Notre Dame that started in 2021, the Diocese of Scranton has been assisting in developing the next generation of young adult leaders in the Catholic Church.

Three new ECHO Apprentices from The University of Notre Dame began working in the Diocese of Scranton this August. Pictured inside the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton, they are, from left: Courtney Schmidt, Sean Savage and Katherine Santarpia. (Photo/Eric Deabill)

“I did a study abroad year at The Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and ended up, through a turn of events, transferring there for my senior year,” he said. “One of my friends entered into the ECHO program at Notre Dame, which is the program I’m now a part of, and she told me about it because I was looking to study more theology and be involved in more theology in practice.”

While at Saint Jude Parish, Savage is being mentored by its pastor, Father Joseph Evanko, and learning more about how to run a parish as well as work with – and minister to – adults and families.

“I am really interested in how to minister to adults as I have spent a lot of my life in ministry to young people, from elementary school children to college students,” Savage added. “Being involved in ministry has given me the opportunity to develop gifts such as listening, leadership, public speaking, and teamwork.”

The two other ECHO Apprentices that began their work this fall are Courtney Schmidt of Lake Forest, Ill., and Katherine Santarpia of Staten Island, N.Y.

Schmidt, who graduated from the honors program at Creighton University in May, hopes to gain a deeper appreciation for how her Catholic faith has shaped her life, and share that love with others.

The psychology and classical languages major is now working with students at King’s College and being mentored by Father Brogan Ryan, C.S.C.

“I was really formed in a college campus ministry setting. It was something that was really impactful in my own faith life when I was an undergrad, so being able to turn around, and pull students into that and invite students into a deeper self-reflection and awareness of finding God’s presence in the everyday is going to be really impactful for me,” Schmidt said.

In her first few months on campus, Schmidt has found herself working with Sisters in Faith, the women’s group on campus, as well as handling retreat preparations, helping to coordinate liturgies, and assisting with monthly campus ministry programming.

“It has been a whirlwind of meeting students which has been so wonderful,” she added. “I’m the first female campus minister they’ve had in a couple years, so I’ve been able to connect with all the students that are used to only being with Father Brogan and Brother Jimmy.”

Each ECHO Apprentice has committed to two years of service. They will initially spend nine months in the Diocese of Scranton working directly in their parish/college placement. Next summer, the three will return to Notre Dame for more coursework, after which they will return for one more year at their assigned location.

Santarpia, who graduated Magna cum laude from Bryn Mawr College with degrees in Spanish and political science, is working with the parish communities of Saint Ignatius Loyola, Kingston, and Holy Family, Luzerne, and is being mentored by Monsignor David Tressler.

“Everyone has been incredible, at the parishes and the Diocesan level. It has been meaningful to see how excited people are to have us here and how welcoming everyone has been,” Santarpia said.

While at Bryn Mawr College, Santarpia coordinated weekly Mass, Bible study and prayer meetings as part of the campus ministry program.

Santarpia also served as a student interfaith coordinator, helping to create spaces for student dialogue on faith and spirituality.

“I’m hoping to be responsive to where the need is,” she added, about her new responsibilities. “I’m trying to really connect with the people at the parishes, see what groups exist, see what communities are there, see where there is maybe a need or an interest for something more and hopefully fit into that working with who is there and what they have that thirst for.”

Shannon Kowalski, Director for Service and Mission in the Diocesan Office for Parish Life, helps to coordinate the Diocesan partnership with Notre Dame University.

“Working with the ECHO apprentices has been a rewarding experience all the way around. The academic and spiritual formation that the students receive so evidently trickles down to our parishes they are serving in – they are leading adult bible studies, forming retreats, and assisting with catechesis. It is also nice to watch the ways in which their witness as young adults interested in church ministry has helped build up young adult ministry in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area.”