A Church Filled With Jackies

Jackie Pacheco is a phenomenal young Catholic leader with whom it is a joy for us to work alongside. She has a heart for young Catholics and is on a mission

Catholic Leadership Institute (CLI) has partnered with Jackie and St. Joseph’s Parish in Carpinteria, CA, for parish planning. CLI Leadership Consultant, Miguel Santos, has the privilege of working closely with Jackie. He affirms her work and faith:

“This is a young adult who continues to impress me and has been a real inspiration. I remember mentioning the following to the team at our last session, ‘Our goal should be to work with our young adults, so as to have a church filled with Jackies.’ She is humble, but truly a go-getter who reflects the heart of Christ. Jackie always goes the extra mile, and her love of God and Church categorically shine through her commitment to the parish. “

Right now, Jackie and a small group of lay leaders are working on a parish plan to make St. Joseph a vibrant faith community that invites, welcomes, and joyfully embraces disciples of all ages.

The plan focuses on three main priorities:

  1. Leadership, Discipleship, and Catechetical Development
  2. Engaging the Youth by Becoming a “Field Hospital” for the Wounded
  3. Reinforcing a Sacramental Worldview

We were able to catch up with Jackie to ask a few questions about her passion for young adults and about her partnership with Catholic Leadership Institute. Scroll down to hear from Jackie (question #3 is intriguing!). 

Q&A with Jackie

Question 1: Where did your heart for engaging young adults originate?

Jackie: I was born and raised in a Catholic home, although it wasn’t until I received my First Holy Communion that my parents (particularly my mom) started to learn more about our faith. We would pray the rosary together as a family and go to Mass on Sundays, as well as Adoration during the week and daily Mass during the summers when my brother and I were out of school for summer vacation. My brother and I also became altar servers and became involved with the children’s choir and then the youth choir (as it evolved into). It was about the time when I entered middle school and high school that I became aware of the lack of practicing Catholics my age. Not having friends that were Catholic (or at least practicing Catholic—I attended private Catholic school from 5th grade through 12th grade and even there it was difficult to find friends that shared my Catholic values and beliefs) that I could talk to about Catholic news, favorite saints, and other Catholic things was difficult because my faith was a central part of my life and the fact that I couldn’t share it with them meant that they didn’t know me completely. When I was in college at a non-denominational Christian school and my non-Catholic Christian friends started asking me things about my faith, it became my own choice to believe, especially as I began to delve into the realm of apologetics and learning more about Catholic doctrine through the internet. I was amazed and struck with wonder at the beauty of my Catholic faith as I began to know it at a deeper level. It became a moment of conversion for me as I began to take prayer and the Mass more seriously. This encounter with Jesus and His love for me, that He would die for me on the Cross so that I could be with Him forever in heaven, and that He would stay with me in the Blessed Sacrament to nourish me on the way to my true home, reawakened me in my own spiritual journey. I know that young adults are desperately looking for love as I was at that time as a junior in college, and I want them to know that they don’t have to keep searching—all they have to do is let themselves be found my God, who chases after them and loves them with an everlasting love.

Question 2: What inspires you about the beautiful Pope Francis quote that informed your parish planning?
(Background: St. Joseph’s second priority in their plan – Engaging the Youth by Becoming a “Field Hospital” for the Wounded – is a fascinating one. The group defines this as St. Joseph Church seeking to lead people to healing encounters with Christ through the Sacraments, its parishioners, and ministries, all while drawing the young people in by getting them involved in works of justice and mercy. It is inspired by the following Pope Francis quote:
"This is the mission of the Church: the Church heals, it cures. Sometimes, I speak of the Church as if it were a field hospital. It's true: there are many, many wounded! So many people need their wounds healed! This is the mission of the Church: to heal the wounds of the heart, to open doors, to free people, to say that God is good, God forgives all, God is the Father, God is affectionate, God always waits for us.”)

Jackie: While I can’t take credit for Pope Francis’s quote on the Church as a field hospital (this quote was picked out by a couple from my parish that was in my small group as we discussed and proposed three potential priorities for our parish), I do believe that the mission of the Church is to heal. Jesus came to heal and free us from sin. His miracles of healing those that were plagued by infirmities like the lepers and the blind and mute were glimpses of the healing that He desires to bring into our souls and hearts. The world is hurting, yet Jesus offers the mercy that we all crave for. For our parish to provide opportunities for young adults and members of all age groups to become Christ to others by serving the forgotten through works of justice and mercy would be to be the hands and feet of Christ and to bring Christ to those that need healing.

Question 3: How has your experience with Catholic Leadership Institute been? What have you worked on?

Jackie: CLI has been an amazing way to get in touch with my pastor and other people in my parish community and for us to share our concerns about opportunities for growth in our parish, such as more formation opportunities for parishioners and the need for more opportunities for the youth to participate so that they stay and become active members in our parish. It has been wonderful to see how the Holy Spirit has been working through this process of discerning which priorities, goals, and strategies to commit to, as we all agreed that we need to focus on the youth and families.

Question 4: We love your goal of discipling leaders so that they in turn will disciple and evangelize others — why was this an important piece to include in your plan?

Jackie: Again, this idea of developing a discipleship formation team was first proposed by someone in my small group, but we combined it with catechetical development, since we saw in the DMI that our parishioners needed to have a greater confidence in the Church’s teachings and that they were also willing to undergo more formation and catechesis. Because the discipleship model is something that Jesus Himself used when He gathered and sent the Twelve apostles, we are confident that it is a strategy that will help our parish develop intentional disciples so that all members of our parish can eventually be equipped to live out their call to be missionary disciples to fulfill Jesus’s commandment in Matthew 28:19, to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”

Question 5: What is your great hope for your parish as a result of your work with Catholic Leadership Institute?

Jackie: I hope to experience the fruits of God’s work in our parish through the labor and dedication of our Pastoral Planning Committee and CLI by seeing a more vibrant and dedicated church community with a diversity of ages (especially middle schoolers and high schoolers) participating in the liturgy and living out their Catholic faith in their homes, school, work, and our parish. Ultimately, I hope for us to be united in one purpose so that we can truly be one in Christ, for us to be the light of the world as we carry with us the love that is Love Himself that we receive in the Eucharist at Holy Mass to a world desperate for love.

Working with leaders like Jackie inspires us so deeply. Imagine if there were more “Jackies” in our pews – please know that across the country, your generosity is working hard to make that aspiration a reality!

by Chad Peddicord

August 05, 2021

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