SAN DIEGO — As young adult ministry coordinator at St. Joseph Cathedral, Dorinamae Cueva says her work often “doesn’t feel like a job.”
That’s fortunate because she can’t quite limit herself to the 35 hours a week she logs on her timecard.
“You’re always thinking about what you can do to improve the ministry … even off the clock,” Cueva said. “Even when you’re hanging out with your friends … you’re always thinking about new ideas.”
Her dedication hasn’t gone unnoticed.
At the annual Young Adult Christmas Gala, held Dec. 16 at St. Michael Parish in Poway, she received the Fiat Award, which is presented each year by the diocesan Office for Young Adult Ministry.
Named in honor of the Blessed Mother’s “yes” to God (Luke 1:38), the award recognizes a young adult who has served “diligently, prayerfully and with a servant’s heart” at the parish, diocesan or regional level. (Scott Weeman, who overcame alcohol and drug addiction and founded the nonprofit organization Catholic in Recovery, also received the Fiat Award this year.)
Surprised and humbled by the honor, Cueva isn’t accepting it as merely a pat on the back for a job well done. Instead, she sees it as a challenge “to pick up my game” and further develop the ministry, and she hopes that the spotlight this puts on her group might inspire other parishes to start and grow young adult ministries of their own.
One of the most challenging aspects of this ministry, Cueva said, is that young adults are in a stage of life in which they are discerning their vocations, establishing themselves in their careers and not yet committed to settling down in a particular city, let alone a specific parish.
But, for parishes, reaching out to this demographic is well worth the effort.
“Investing in young adults is a good investment that [parishes] will not regret,” said Cueva, who noted that today’s young adults are tomorrow’s parents, priests and consecrated religious.
At St. Joseph Cathedral, the young adult group gathers at 6:30 p.m. every Sunday, following the 5:15 p.m. Mass. Activities alternate from week to week, with a typical month including a Bible study, a social event, a presentation by a guest speaker, and an opportunity to give back to the parish through service.
Cueva is the first young adult minister at St. Joseph Cathedral to be a paid employee of the parish. Before she was hired a year and a half ago, the ministry had been entirely volunteer-run, and its leaders had to organize the group’s activities around their own work schedules. By contrast, Cueva is able to give the ministry her full attention.
She wasn’t always so passionate about her Catholic faith. As a youth, she attended Sunday Mass and religious education classes out of obligation. After her confirmation, she continued attending Mass, but felt comfortable skipping the occasional Sunday. For several years, God was “on the backburner,” she said. She didn’t doubt His existence. She didn’t hate Him. He just wasn’t the center of her life.
But that changed midway through her college years. Feeling “lost” and uncertain about her career and vocation, she decided to give “this God thing” a try. She attended a weekday Mass, surprised to discover that the liturgy was even celebrated on non-Sundays, returning the next day and making a habit of it.
“I found myself working my life,” including both school and job schedules, “around when I could go to Mass,” she said. “It was no longer Jesus fitting into my schedule when it was convenient for me, but it became me fitting my life around my love for Christ and His Church.”
That love led her to join a Catholic young adult group and to get involved in ministry at Corpus Christi Parish in Bonita.
After graduating from college in 2015, Cueva continued to volunteer at the parish, while also teaching at a school. Teaching made her happy, but it was her ministry work that gave her the most fulfillment. With five years of experience as a volunteer youth and young adult minister at Corpus Christi, she decided to pursue ministry full-time.
“Dorinamae was an excellent choice to be honored at this year’s Young Adult Christmas Gala, in front of 350 of her young adult peers,” said Patrick Rivera, director of the Office for Young Adult Ministry. “Through her work at St. Joseph Cathedral, and previously Corpus Christi Parish, as well as her time assisting the Young Adult Office and the Diocese of San Diego in various capacities, her ‘fiat’ to God has been beautiful.”