BRONX — Thirty years ago, they were 16- and 17-years-olds. They formed a community of prayer, Bible-sharing and fellowship here, a lot like a family. It was called the Holy Cross Youth Group. Comprised mostly of young people of Puerto Rican and Hispanic origin, it attracted more than 100 persons each Wednesday evening.
It was a group of wide-eyed teenage youth, widely-known in the Archdiocese of New York for its emphasis on shared prayer, religious music, and outreach to various age groups in the diverse communities of the Bronx, according to Martin Bednar, an early leader of the group.
Founded by Louis Iasiello in 1977, now president of the Washington Theological Union, the group was also led by Brian Jordan. The group was the brainchild of the friars assigned to Holy Cross Parish, according to Louis, who added that they were very concerned that the parish offered minimal outreach or activity for the youth.
From those early beginnings 30 years ago, members have gone on today to accomplish great things. One member is a permanent deacon at Holy Cross Parish, while others earned doctoral degrees, according to Martin. The majority of members are still active in the church. Now in midlife, some have married spouses from the very same youth group, he added.
This summer, 50 members of the group and their own teenage children reunited for the 30th anniversary of its founding, celebrating on a five-day cruise. From July 2 to 7, the group cruised from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., through Key West to Mexico, and back. Martin accompanied the group for fellowship, daily prayer, hearty eating, and even dancing.
Today, the youth group at Holy Cross continues to flourish.
“There have been changes, of course, but the Franciscan spirit of prayer, unity, service, and fellowship continues,” said Martin.