College Student Credits Youth Ministry Experiences for the Strength of her Faith

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By Tony DeGol
Proclaim!

This is a big year for Morgan Casto.

She will graduate from Saint Vincent College in Latrobe this spring with a well-earned degree in Biology.

She is not sure where her career path will take her after she snags that diploma, but she is certain that her cherished Catholic faith will always be with her.

Besides her rigorous studies, Casto, 21, devotes a lot of time to campus ministry at Saint Vincent.

As a liturgical ministry team leader, she is responsible for coordinating servers, readers, and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion for Masses in the chapel. She also works many retreats on campus that welcome Confirmation candidates and other youth.

“I find it very fulfilling because it’s an opportunity to put my own faith into action,” Casto remarked. “Often I find these retreats I do help me grow in my own faith.”

Pardon the cliché, but Casto is a Catholic young adult who really is on fire with her faith.

At a time when so many college students and other 20-somethings are allowing their relationship with the Lord to take a back seat, why is Casto continuing to blossom in her spirituality?

A member of Saint Clement Parish in Johnstown, she was blessed to receive a great Catholic school education at Cathedral Catholic Academy and Bishop McCort Catholic High School.

She also had the good fortune of engaging in just about every youth ministry opportunity the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown has offered over the past decade.

She attended Junior High Youth Day three times. The annual gathering welcomes sixth, seventh, and eighth graders for a day of faith enrichment and fun. As a high school student, she served on the planning team for JHYD and the annual Senior High Youth Conference (SHYCON). Both events feature dynamic, nationally-recognized speakers, service opportunities, and Mass with Bishop Mark.

Some of Casto’s fondest memories include Camp Zacchaeus, the diocesan summer camp for students in grades four through nine. The experience offers a week-long mix of spirituality and fun.

Casto was a camper for four years, then became a counselor-in-training, then a counselor.  

“Camp was something I had never done before,” she recalled. “Just being in nature and exploring it and seeing the beauty of God’s creation was really cool.”

Another formative experience was Casto’s trip to the National Catholic Youth Conference in 2015. The diocese takes a delegation of youth to the conference when it is offered in Indianapolis every two years. Bishop Mark joins the group as they encounter Catholic peers from around the country seeking to elevate their faith. 

“I think that’s why I’m a good Catholic young adult,” Casto theorized of her NCYC experience. “It’s a beautiful opportunity to focus on your faith and not have the distractions of the outside world. It kindled the fire in me to keep pursing my faith throughout college.”

All of the youth ministry opportunities from which Casto benefited are made possible through the generous support of the Catholic Ministries Drive.  

The 2020 campaign, titled “Ignite Your Faith for Christ’s Mission,” launches this month.

As usual, the CMD focuses on three key areas: Forming Clergy and Laity, Nurturing Youth, and Caring for the Poor/Strengthening Families.

Besides Youth Ministry, the Catholic Ministries Drive supports 13 other vital diocesan-wide ministries including Catholic Charities and seminarian formation.

This year’s goal is $2,294,584. Every dollar donated helps keep the designated ministries going strong for the benefit of others.

To all who generously give to the Catholic Ministries Drive, Casto offers hearty gratitude.

Through their support, they’re enabling young Catholics to really grow in their faith and in their love for our Lord,” she stressed. “It will impact them throughout their lives.” 

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Place your gift to the 2020 Catholic Ministries Drive in your parish offertory; mail it directly to the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, P.O. Box 409, Hollidaysburg, PA  16648; or donate online at www.dioceseaj.org/giving.

 [Photo: Morgan Casto (right) shares a moment with Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown Youth Ministry coordinator Francine Swope at Camp Zacchaeus 2018.]