Diocese of Salina, Kansas
Growing up in Grainfield, Kansas, a small community in the Diocese of Salina, Michelle Farmer discovered that faith is fun. Today, as a resident of Russell, Kansas, Michelle shares her passion for her faith in a variety of roles.
In her youth, Michelle was actively involved in CYO, attending camp from sixth to ninth grade, then becoming a counselor in her sophomore year of high school. CYO helped her to overcome feelings of awkwardness and develop confidence. It also taught her that faith is joyful.
Since 2008 Michelle and her husband, John, have been CYO sponsors in their home town of Russell, population around 5000. Her parish, St. Mary Queen of Angels, has 310 registered families and serves about 700 people, including 162 youth. About one quarter of them are at the age of and participate in CYO and 140 participate in CCD classes. One of her students entered the Seminary.
Michelle is on a mission to engage youth – both Catholic and non-Catholic - in the Church. To do so, she exudes positivity and makes activities fun. And Michelle never says no.
Her parish priest calls her a prayer warrior. She offers strong encouragement to young people to participate in activities and to attend mass, particularly First Friday Mass. The parish priest reports he frequently sees 15-20 young people at the 7:30 a.m. mass on Fridays.
Bishop Gerald Vincke of Salina said, “In the face of a national trend of youth and young adults quietly wandering from the Church, Michelle is leading the young people of Russell more deeply into the heart of the Church. In the process, she helps these young people experience the joy that is found only in a deep relationship with Jesus Christ. They learn their faith can help them respond to every challenge life might bring them. And they maintain that faith into their adult lives.”
While attending a NCYC convention, Michelle heard about another CYO that started a traveling prayer night. Embracing the idea, she and other parishioners travel from place to place in the community to pray with and over individuals in need. Other parishes in her diocese have followed suit.
For more than six years, Michelle has sponsored at least one confirmation student annually. She takes communion to an elderly friend in a care home (one of the most meaningful parts of her week, she says). She started a mom prayer group with two young Catholic moms to help them feel at home in their church. The two moms went on to teach a CCD class for their sons.
As a CCD teacher Michelle invites her students to bring their friends, regardless of their faith. Several friends of her students started attending regularly and their families joined the Catholic Church.
Michelle organizes fun fellowship activities throughout the year – whether hanging out at her home or floating on the creek behind it. She always includes prayer and makes God the focal point. The programs have participation rates of 90 to 100 percent.