POWAY — More than 300 people from throughout the diocese are expected to attend the annual Young Adult Christmas Gala.
The event, sponsored by the diocesan Office for Youth and Young Adult Ministry, will be held from 6:30 to 11 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, at St. Michael Parish in Poway. Catholics ages 18 to 39, dressed in cocktail attire, will enjoy an evening of dinner and dancing.
Among the attendees will be Emily Sanchez, leader of the young adult group at St. Anne Parish in Logan Heights, who is the recipient of this year’s Fiat Award.
The award, which was first presented at the 2015 gala, recognizes a young adult who has served “diligently, prayerfully and with a servant’s heart” at the parish, diocesan or regional level. “Fiat” is Latin for “let it be done” and was the Virgin Mary’s response when called to be the mother of the Messiah.
Sanchez, 27, has been a St. Anne’s parishioner for about 12 years. Her family previously had attended Mission San Diego de Alcalá Parish. But after accepting an invitation to St. Anne’s, where Mass is celebrated exclusively in Latin according to the liturgical books of 1962, they “just fell in love with it.”
She has been the leader of St. Anne’s Young Adults since May of 2019.
The group meets on Wednesdays after the 6:30 p.m. Mass. Its gatherings attract an average of about 65 young adults every week, with attendance evenly divided between young adults from St. Anne’s and those from other parishes.
“I am humbled to be offered this kind award, but grateful for the opportunity to point all glory towards Christ,” said Sanchez. “The graces we’ve received through this ministry have all come from Him, and He never fails to impress.”
In a sense, Sanchez owes her life to young adult ministry. She shared that her parents met as members of the young adult group at Mission San Diego, as did the parents of many of her close friends.
At St. Anne’s, Sanchez said, she saw the need for a young adult group and “really felt called” to step up and lead it. From there, it took off.
“It went from once a month on Saturdays to every Wednesday,” she said, “and the grace was just immediate. We really tried to make it a fun and enjoyable atmosphere and then just provide rich, deep substance.”
Maricruz Flores, director of the Office for Youth and Young Adult Ministry, praised Sanchez for her dedication to young adult ministry at St. Anne’s — all of it as an unpaid volunteer — as well as for her “collaborative spirit,” expressing gratitude for her assistance with organizing and promoting diocesan young adult events.
“She’s very welcoming,” Flores said. “She talks to everybody and anybody, she exudes a sense of warmth, and she always has a great big smile.”
Brilema Perez, associate director of the Office for Youth and Young Adult Ministry, noted that St. Anne’s young adult group “has really flourished” and become “a very close-knit community” under Sanchez’s watch.
“I think that her leadership really has allowed for that,” she said.
As she prepares to take the stage to receive this year’s Fiat Award, Sanchez has a message for fellow young adults about their role in the Church.
“Turn your heart toward Christ again and again and be transformed by Him,” she said. “Let His love pour through you to everyone you encounter. Our faith is a gem to be treasured, rich in gifts to bring us nearer to His Heart, and deserving of radical commitment. Live for Him and find that ultimate peace.”
Tickets to the Young Adult Christmas Gala, $49 for singles and $90 for married couples, will be available through Monday, Dec. 5, or until they sell out. Visit sdcatholic.org/youngadult.