SCRANTON – The Diocese of Scranton is joining forces with Notre Dame University this summer to help develop the next generation of young adult leaders in the Catholic Church.
In August, three students from the McGrath Institute’s Echo Program at the University of Notre Dame will travel to northeastern Pennsylvania to begin serving in various parishes locally.
Kylie Ballinger, a 2020 graduate of Arizona State University; Cecilia Dietzler, a 2020 graduate of Marquette University; and Deirdre Drinkall, a 2021 graduation of Saint Mary’s College, will each begin working full-time in parishes focusing on a variety of catechetical ministries.
Each student has committed to two years of service. They will initially spend nine months in the Diocese of Scranton working directly in parishes. 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.
Shannon Kowalski, Director for Service and Mission in the Diocesan Office for Parish Life, helped coordinate the Diocesan partnership with Notre Dame University. She is looking forward to its launch.
“This program is a win-win in many different ways,” Kowalski explained. “The apprentices who are coming to work in our Diocese have a passion for ministry and want to dive head-first into strengthening our parish communities. While we will benefit from their energy and enthusiasm, they will be working toward their Master of Arts in Theology.”
When they arrive locally, the apprentices may work with RCIA, religious education, youth ministry, adult faith formation, social justice ministry or other parish programs.
Kylie Ballinger, who is from Flower Mount, Texas, will be working at Saint Jude Parish in Mountain Top and Our Lady of Help of Christians Parish in Dorrance.
“I am excited to work in a parish and want to learn more about what mission and evangelization, especially to families and children, can look like in a parish setting,” she said. “I want to learn how to make a parish a place in which parishioners can serve the Lord and one another and find a strong sense of community that pushes them in their faith and service.”
Ballinger is hoping this upcoming experience will help her grow deeper in her own faith journey. Saint Jude pastor, Father Joseph Evanko, will mentor her.
“I am excited for my parish ministry experience and faith journey and am thankful to have a mentor to turn to with new ideas I am unsure about, any problems I may face in ministry and to seek advice,” she added.
Cecilia Dietzler, who hails from the Archdiocese of Denver, is also looking forward to learning from her mentor in her parish placement at Saint Catherine of Siena Parish in Moscow.
“I applied to Echo because I want to strengthen my ministerial skills by being exposed to new settings in ministry and learning from those experiences,” Dietzler explained. “The ministers who have shaped me have had a strong intuition that allowed them to offer the support, knowledge and encouragement I needed to grow closer to Christ.”
Having previously served as a sacristan and retreat director at her home parish, the Littleton, Colo. native wants to share the power of her faith with people in the Diocese of Scranton.
“I bring a passion for the faith and gratitude for what God has blessed me with, as well as strong leadership skills and a desire to grow.”
The final Echo apprentice, Deirdre Drinkall, is also excited to get started. She will be serving the faithful of Saint Ignatius Loyola Parish in Kingston.
“I look forward to learning the tried-and-true methods in leading and ministering, with the Holy Spirit as the guide,” she said. “I hope to learn how to create a merciful, personal, and welcoming parish environment where each member is known and loved.”
Drinkall said she is passionate about sharing God’s true light in the Church and the world.
“My experience in youth ministry, children’s catechesis, and young women’s ministry has prepared me to dive head-first into a community with creativity, energy and warmth,” Drinkall added.
The three students who will arrive in the Diocese of Scranton as part of the Echo Program at the University of Notre Dame are among 31 students nationwide who have made the commitment to serve the Church for the next two years.
In addition to Scranton, Echo apprentices will also serve in the Arch/Dioceses of Atlanta, Camden, Fall River, Galveston-Houston, Kalamazoo, Knoxville, Milwaukee, Newark and Saint Petersburg.