New diocesan employees aim to reach young adults

Monday, March 13, 2017 - Updated: 1:00 pm
By Ann Rodgers General Manager

One of the strongest messages that parishioners sent to Bishop David Zubik during consultations for On Mission for The Church Alive! was a call for the church to put a high priority on outreach to young adults.

The bishop has taken important steps on that path with two new hires.

Jacob Williamson is the new director of young adult ministry in the Secretariat for Leadership Development and Evangelization. Nicholas Sciarappa has joined the Department for Communications as the digital media strategist, a new diocesan position.

“If we want to communicate with young Catholics, then we have to do so through the channels and methods that young Catholics are happy and comfortable with,” said Bishop Zubik, who recently began tweeting as @BishopZubik.

“While Jacob Williamson will focus on building relationships with young adults, Nick Sciarappa will make sure that the entire diocesan staff has the skills and tools needed to keep that conversation going and draw younger adults into the wider life of the church.”

Williamson studied for the priesthood before discerning a call to lay leadership in the church. He holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Gannon University, a certificate in youth ministry from Franciscan University of Steubenville and is working on a master’s degree in theology from the Augustine Institute in Denver, Colorado.

He worked in management for Macy’s, then spent five years as coordinator of youth and young adult ministry at Holy Sepulcher Parish in Glade Mills. Last year he became program coordinator for Christ in the City, an evangelization outreach in Denver, before deciding to return to the Pittsburgh area. His predecessor, Holly Joy McIlwain, increased young adult ministries in parishes from four to more than 60, and is now the diocesan coordinator of parish leadership teams. Williamson will build on her work.

Williamson’s vision of ministry is to “connect young adults to Jesus, the church and each other.”

Pittsburgh has great potential for young adult ministry because many high-tech companies such as Apple, Google and Uber are expanding here, he said. Forbes Magazine has recognized Pittsburgh as a destination city for educated millennials.

“Because of that growth and because of the dynamic vision of our bishop, I believe young adult ministry in the Diocese of Pittsburgh is primed to explode,” Williamson said. “With that being said, at the heart of young adult ministry is a person who never ceases to invite each of us into relationship with him.”

Sciarappa is the younger brother of Father Anthony Sciarappa, whom Bishop Zubik ordained to the priesthood last year. A 2014 graduate of John Carroll University, Nick received his bachelor’s degree in communications and theater arts, with a minor in Catholic studies. During college he worked as a freelance videographer. After graduation Nick did an internship with the National Catholic Reporter in Kansas City, Missouri, writing for the weekly newspaper and creating digital and video content for its website.

In 2015-16, Nick served as a media and marketing specialist for SS. John and Paul Parish in Franklin Park/Marshall Township, engaging in website and social media management, video creation and producing communications to parishioners. His work there brought him to the attention of the diocese, and he has served on a steering committee for strategic planning in communications. Nick also serves as an assistant youth minister at St. John Neumann Parish in Franklin Park, where he will continue part time.

His role within the diocese will include overseeing development of a new website, advising the Communications Department on best practices in digital media, and coaching the diocesan staff and parish leaders on how to use digital media effectively.

“The addition of a digital media strategist position shows the church’s desire to reach new audiences. It is my hope that Jesus and his church in Pittsburgh will be known for having beautiful, clear and effective content that reaches the millennial generation,” Nick said.

“Entire generations of people rely almost completely on digital media for their content consumption. Having a position devoted entirely to filling the need for new digital content will help spread the news of Jesus to an audience that needs his presence.”

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