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Frassati Fellowships: Young Adults Building a Catholic Culture

By: Blackfriars Staff

“You need a Catholic culture that is more powerful for you than the worldly culture that surrounds you.”

Ingrid Abeleda (left) and members of the Frassati Fellowship of NYC pray and offer counseling across from Planned Parenthood in Manhattan. Photo by Jon Marquez.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, 1901-1925, was a Third Order Dominican known for his love of the poor, his rich spiritual life, and his joyful personality, by which he drew many of his peers to Christ. He was a tireless organizer of his fellow students for Catholic causes in an era marked by the empty ideologies of Fascism and Communism in his native Italy. In 1990, Frassati was beatified by Pope Saint John Paul II. Today, young adult fellowships that bear his name are building a thriving Catholic culture in a skeptical age.

Father Jerome Zeiler, O.P., parochial vicar of Saint Patrick’s Church in Columbus, Ohio, is the chaplain of the Columbus Frassati Society, which offers a packed roster of spiritual, social, and service events that regularly gather from 20 to 50 young adults.

“How do you confront the Culture of Death—a materialistic, secular, godless culture—when you’re immersed in it? You have to do more than go to Mass on Sunday. You need a Catholic culture that is more powerful for you than the worldly culture that surrounds you,” says Father Zeiler.

According to Father Zeiler, the group has grown organically by word of mouth and through Facebook. Young adults tend to move on as they get married—often to fellow Frassati members.

The Frassati Fellowship of NYC is one of the largest and most active of the Frassati groups (which are independent from one another) and is supported by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and the Sisters of Life as well as the Dominican Friars. Father Dominic Bump, O.P., offers spiritual direction to the young adults of Frassati NYC.

“Frassati helps them build virtuous friendships that are ordered to the highest good, which is ultimately Sainthood. Relationships formed in Frassati are deeper, more real, and without cliques,” says Father Bump, who accompanied Frassati Fellowship of NYC at a 40 Days for Life vigil outside a Manhattan Planned Parenthood in October.

Ingrid Abeleda, Frassati NYC’s pro-life ministry leader and the organizer of the vigil, discovered the Fellowship through a service project at a parish damaged by Hurricane Sandy in Brooklyn. “I’ve really found a family here, a place in the Church, a way to grow, and a sense of accountability,” Ingrid says. “We’re not perfect, but we encourage one another to grow in sanctity.”

The DC Frassati Fellowship is perhaps the most connected to Blessed Pier Giorgio’s Dominican roots. Participants meet at the Dominican House of Studies and take part in the priory’s Masses, Holy Hours, and Liturgy of the Hours.

“The life of the Priory overflows into the Frassati Fellowship,” says Brother Ignatius Weiss, who is coordinator, together with Brother Frassati Davis, of the fellowship’s core team. “Parishes provide a spiritual home for our members, but the Dominicans offer them a special grace to inform their way of living as Catholic young adults in Washington, DC.”

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