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Young adults dive into Books & Snorkels


UNIQUE PAIRING: Mary Star of the Sea Parish’s Books & Snorkels group is seen at La Jolla Cove, where its members follow their biweekly book discussion with a snorkeling session. (Credit: Courtesy Joline Mann)

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LA JOLLA – Things have gone swimmingly for the new young adult ministry program at Mary Star of the Sea Parish.

Books & Snorkels, as its name suggests, offers the unique pairing of a book discussion and a snorkeling excursion.

About to mark its one-year anniversary, the group meets every other Sunday, with the next installment set for Feb. 4.

Open to young adults in their 20s and 30s, the group gathers at 12:30 p.m. in a conference room inside the parish office, where members enjoy a half-hour of socializing over brunch items that they’ve brought back from a nearby coffeeshop.

The book discussion runs from about 1 to 2 p.m., beginning with an icebreaker and introductions.

The parish’s young adult leader, Joline Mann, who started the group, said she prepares a set of discussion questions for each meeting. But, oftentimes, attendees come with their own insights to share.

“It just flows really well,” she said. “There’s no silence. Everyone’s just talking and discussing.”

She added that members have had “really great debates,” too, though not in a combative manner.

After their book discussion, the group walks a few feet down Girard Avenue to La Jolla Swim & Sport, where they rent their snorkeling gear, and spend about an hour snorkeling at La Jolla Cove. They typically wrap up around 3:30 p.m.

Some attendees decide to “make a whole day of it,” said Mann, explaining that they sometimes will grab a bite to eat after returning the snorkeling equipment, even though that isn’t officially part of the schedule.

Typically, about 15 to 20 people attend Books & Snorkels. About half of them participate in the snorkeling, said Mann, and about one-quarter of the non-snorkelers watch from the beach.

She said the idea for the program sprang from her own “love for books” and “deep passion for the ocean.”

The group’s inaugural meeting was on Feb. 19, 2023.

Its first book selection was “The Art of Living: The Cardinal Virtues and the Freedom to Love” by Edward Sri.

Among the subsequent books was “The Shadow of His Wings: The True Story of Fr. Gereon Goldmann,” the autobiographical account of a German seminarian (and later priest) who was drafted into the SS during the Second World War and risked his life ministering to others.

On Feb. 4, the group will begin reading “In Defense of Purity: An Analysis of the Catholic Ideals of Purity and Virginity” by the German philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand.

On her criteria for book selections, Mann said that she looks for something that has a Catholic theological component and is applicable to young adult lives.

To mark the group’s one-year anniversary, she said, there are plans to spend a weekend in Julian, “reading our books, hiking, watching Catholic movies (and) growing in fellowship.”

John McGonegal, a member of Mary Star of the Sea Parish, and Valerie Kassab, who attends Mass at St. Peter the Apostle Chaldean Catholic Cathedral, have been with Books & Snorkels since the beginning.

The group was a natural fit for McGonegal, who describes himself as “a self-proclaimed ‘book guy’” and “a big outdoor person.”

“The books we have covered have not only inspired me to be a better Catholic,” he said, “but they have also sharpened the tools necessary to go forth and spread the Good News to others.”

Kassab, who is an avid reader, said that she was “all in” when she heard that the first meeting “would entail avocado toast, coffee and good discussion” with other Catholic young adults.

“I love the discussions centered on our Catholic faith and learning from my peers,” said Kassab, a native San Diegan who had never snorkeled before joining the group, “and there is no better way to close up our discussions than going outside and appreciating God’s beautiful creation with friends out at the Cove.”

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