Mentorship program helps northeast Nebraska Catholics share faith, deepen spiritual life
April 28, 2023
Matt Keller finds himself looking around after Sunday Mass at St. Stephen the Martyr in Omaha.
The 30-year-old software engineer can’t help but scan the pews in search of anyone sitting alone, looking around and possibly in need of a connection at the parish.
Keller’s found himself listening to see where the Holy Spirit might take him. He credits what he learned in the Archdiocese of Omaha’s mentorship program for giving him the foundation to confidently bring others into Catholic community, including through the growing Arch O Young Adults Group he helped found while participating in the mentorship program.
“That was one of the best choices I have made, definitely for my spiritual life,” Keller said.
Since its inception in 2018, 90 Catholics from across the archdiocese have completed the two-year program that helps participants take their spiritual life to a new level, empowering them to form a deeper relationship with Jesus and share the Gospel with others.
“Our goal in the Mentorship Program is to help lay people grow in confidence and fruitfulness in their personal evangelization efforts,” said Jen Moser, the program’s director and associate director & leadership formation specialist at the archdiocese. “By focusing on simple but powerful skills – building friendships, sharing one’s own story of faith, proclaiming the Gospel, intercessory prayer – we hope to raise up more parish leaders with the tools to individually accompany their neighbors, co-workers, family members, and friends into full maturity as disciples of Christ.”
Earlier this month, around 50 Catholics from across the Omaha metro attended a come-and-see event for the program. Each class has between 25 and 35 participants.
Moser said graduates like Keller and Monica Kathol are already impacting their parishes and communities because of the program.
Kathol, a teacher and parishioner at Holy Trinity Catholic Parish in Hartington, was part of the second class that graduated in 2021.
A cradle Catholic, Kathol said the program nourished her spiritually, giving her confidence and boldness to help others encounter Jesus.
For example, she’s been able to lead a couple of faith-sharing and Bible-study small groups in her community, which she said helped them grow closer together, especially during the pandemic.
She also said the program equipped her to help walk with families who had stopped practicing their Catholic faith and help guide them back to Mass and the Sacraments.
“I feel much more equipped to talk about my faith, to share my faith with others because it’s just a matter of sharing your love for Jesus,” she said. “Everything else falls into place.”
In Omaha, Keller credited the program’s focus on helping participants identify their spiritual gifts for helping him discern a call from God to help young adults in the area find Catholic community after graduating college.
Keller, who graduated from the program in 2022, started the Arch O Young Adults Group, which hosts monthly adoration, weekly sports meet-ups and Bible studies in a casual environment. The group now has over 200 members, most between the ages of 21 and 39, and it’s helping build connections among attendees who attend the same parish but didn’t know it.
The formation he received in the program taught him that evangelization isn’t scary but can become a natural part of any Catholic’s lifestyle and the way they interact with others, he said.
“Once you understand what evangelization is and what we’re called to, with your heart, it basically ruined me for life,” Keller said. “There’s no going back.”
Applications for the program 2023-2024 are due May 15.