FAITH FORWARD: Young Parishioner Infusing Energy and Ideas Into Comemaugh Parish


By Tony DeGol

Editor’s Note: This story is another in the Proclaim! TV and Proclaim! E-News series called Faith Forward, which highlights individuals or groups who are putting their Catholic faith into action by sharing their time and talent to help others.

Like any wise person, Jordan Heinlein gets his inspiration from none other than a saint.

Decades ago, Pope Saint John Paul II encouraged children in Rome to bring the baby Jesus – or in Italian, Bambinelli – from their Nativity to Saint Peter’s Square for a blessing on the Third Sunday of Advent.

These days, the tradition is being celebrated in more and more faith communities around the world, including the Church of the Transfiguration in Conemaugh.

Heinlein is the coordinator of Bambinelli Sunday at Transfiguration – just one of the many ways this faith-filled and energetic young adult shines in his parish.

“I like to volunteer, and I like to help others, so being involved with parish activities has always been something I like to do,” he stated. “It makes me feel good. I really like to meet people and interact with them, talk with them, and hear their stories.”

Besides spearheading Bambinelli Sunday, he is an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, a liturgical decorator, and a member of the parish ARISE Together in Christ committee.

He also helps out with parish fish fries, spaghetti drive-bys, and gob making.

At a parish that is considered to have more of an elderly population, Heinlein’s youthful energy and ideas are most welcome.

“They like to work with me and they like to share stories about when they grew up and how things have changed in the community,” said Heinlein of his fellow parishioners.

“For Jordan to be so involved is very inspiring to the people,” insisted Father Robert Hall, Pastor of Transfiguration. “He’s been able to influence the community in positive ways. When we do fundraisers, he’s always there ready to help. That inspires the elderly to see someone so young who is so involved. He’s a blessing.”

Happily, there are a few other young adults joining Heinlein in stepping up at the parish.

At a time when priests are being asked to take on more and more responsibility, that kind of support is an asset.

“I’m a dinosaur – I’m lucky I can turn the computer on,” joked Father Hall. “Jordan approached me about creating a Facebook page for the parish. Parishioners who moved away have seen the page and send us notes about how it brings back memories of when they were growing up here in Conemaugh.”

Heinlein is a recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown where he studied Secondary Education, Social Studies, and History.

As he looks forward to his first official teaching position, he is already at the head of the class when it comes to service to the Church and pride in his parish.

He, of course, is faithfully in the pews every Sunday – usually with his grandmother, or Baba, as he calls her.

His relationship with the Lord is unshakable, and his passion for the Catholic Church is unmistakable.

“My faith is important to me because it’s everything to me,” Heinlein stressed. “It’s always been there for me through high school and college, but also being a historian – knowing the history of the Church – is what draws me to the Catholic faith and keeps me here. It’s the traditions, it’s being able to trace them back throughout history to see how things are connected and how things have evolved. That’s what I really like about the Catholic faith.”

Heinlein is a great role model for other young adults who are less engaged in their Catholic faith, according to Father Hall, and he is hopeful more will follow Heinlein’s lead. 

“Some of these young people, I think, are tired of some of the emptiness the world has to offer and are seeking true spirituality and connectiveness with God and with the Church,” Father surmised. “People are looking for something different, something more powerful.”

Heinlein, too, is optimistic.

“I hope to see more people come back to the parish and for the community to flourish,” he said. “It’s a great parish to be in, it’s family oriented, it’s small, everybody knows everybody, and we watch out for each other. It’s a great place to be, and I would like to see that continue here in Conemaugh.”

[Photo: (Top) Jordan Heinlein stands near the altar at Transfiguration Parish in Conemaugh. (Inset) Jordan poses with the pastor of Transfiguration, Father Robert Hall, and diocesan seminarian Justin Treon who is serving a summer assignment at the parish.]