Under the conditions of discipleship, Jesus asked those who wish come after Him to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him.
For Angelica Taveras, the consistent restlessness in her heart became such an intricate, detailed conversation with God that she told Him if she were to trade her comfortable, corporate-world salary and work for the Church, three particular criteria would have to be met. Did God deliver?
By the end of March, teenagers in Queens Village will be encountering Jesus through the leadership of Taveras as their full-time youth minister at Our Lady of Lourdes Church.
“The more I learn about the Church, the more I fall in love,” said Taveras on the feast day of her namesake parish. “This is an opportunity for people to realize it’s also possible to work for the Church because for me to leave what I was doing is a testimony that we have the capacity to serve the Church with our skills,” she said. “I think it’s important for people to understand that even as lay people in the Church, we can take part of spreading the good news of the Gospel.”
Taveras’ strong Catholic upbringing not only came from the witness of her mother and grandmother, but also from the faith community within Blessed Sacrament in Jackson Heights.
It was within the different organizations and committees at her Queens parish where she walked by faith and shared her time, talents and treasures. At a young age, Taveras volunteered at her home parish, joined the choir and even spent quality time building her faith with the charismatic groups.
“Throughout my years with the Church, I’ve met many wonderful people who motivated me and specifically made the invitation to join different ministries to help out in the Church,” she added, “and the desire to work and volunteer in the Church continued to grow.”
Her path steered down the conventional route as she excelled in her professional life after graduating college. But Taveras shared that even after her college years, her restlessness and desire for something more stirred in her heart.
Falling Into Place
She continued to work as a full-time professional while volunteering at her parish. Again, her path was met with another opportunity to serve and take her one step closer to solidifying the momentum and direction that God was leading in her life.
Under the nudge of her then-parish priest, Father Patrick Burns, Taveras decided to complete the diocese’s Holy Spirit Institute for Service and Leadership program, or its lay pastoral leader program. She completed the program in three years. So with a sustainable and successful career in the hospitality industry as well as being recognized in the diocese as a commissioned pastoral leader, where else would God call her to? Doses of frustration that were tied with an underlying purpose.
“I wanted to give more to the ministry I was volunteering with, so I was frustrated that my [full-time] job wasn’t letting me be as effective,” she said.
In her heart, God was stirring in her the idea of what she was going to do next … a desire to impact people, including the Catholic Latino community she holds dear.
“I decided to apply to Fordham and I got a scholarship for pastoral studies with a concentration in Latino evangelization and youth ministry.”
She said it all spurred from a desire to learn more about her faith and how she can bring the faith to the community she loved so much. “I’m Latina and I took a leap of faith.”
With her newly acquired qualifications, it was time for her to serve full-time in the Church. Being obedient to God’s calling in her life has finally led her to a peace of mind as she begins the journey of leading the youth at Our Lady of Lourdes to a stronger, deeper relationship with Christ.
Initiative Made It Possible
Her ministry at the parish is made possible by the Generations of Faith capital campaign and the Catholic Youth Ministry Initiative (CYMI), launched in 2011 by the Catholic Foundation for Brooklyn and Queens in partnership with the Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis.
“Now in its third year, the Generations of Faith Campaign has collected its original goal of $80 million toward the pledged goal of $128 million,” said Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello, diocesan Vicar for Development. “And we are seeing how those funds are going back to the parishes to invest in their young people – the next generation of engaged Catholics in Brooklyn and Queens.”
With $48 million in pledges still to be collected, Msgr. Gigantiello is confident the faithful will continue to honor their promises, enabling this youth ministry program to expand to most parishes across the diocese while also supporting retired priests and the renovation and restoration needs of the parishes throughout the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Supporting Her Youth
One of Taveras’ first tasks as full-time youth minister was to support the two pilgrims from Our Lady of Lourdes who were going to World Youth Day in Panama. With the support of Father Patrick Longalong, pastor, as well as parishioners, together the trio and their families helped fundraise for the trip at different events.
Youth group member and pilgrim Vivian Argoty says Angelica has helped enliven the youth ministry.
“I definitely was overwhelmed by the support but it’s been nice,” said Argoty.
Fellow pilgrim Clairete Jean-Pierre agreed. “My mom was telling me about it and she would help Angelica and Vivian and she would love it, all the teamwork that they did, it’s amazing.”