By Charles Kaupke     10/18/2016

Robbie Moore still remembers the first time he ever attended an Ignite event. It was 2010, and a friend had invited him to a BBQ potluck. From the moment he arrived at the event, he knew there was something special about this group.

“Two welcoming faces approached me,” Moore recalls. “They welcomed me with a warm smile… It was actually an exciting moment.” Ever since that day, Moore has been a regular member of this South County young adult group, and even served as the group’s leader for a time. In the six years that he has been part of Ignite, Moore has seen it grow into an incredible ministry that has been a source of healthy camaraderie and spiritual nourishment, not only for him, but also for everyone who has participated in it.

Ignite Young Adult Group, targeting Catholic singles and couples in their twenties and thirties, is based at the Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano. The group hosts weekly get-togethers on Wednesday evenings. With the understanding that a healthy and happy Catholic community requires both a solid foundation in the faith and wholesome social activities, the group alternates between “discussion nights” at the Mission and “social nights” around South County.

On alternating Wednesdays Ignite meets in the Serra Room on the campus of the Mission Basilica to learn more about the Catholic faith. The group listens to a presentation, and then engages in a discussion about the subject matter, and how it plays out in the lives of young Catholics today. Topics the group has discussed in the past include the different seasons of the Liturgical Year, how to pray the Rosary, and the importance of the sacrament of reconciliation. On most weeks an Ignite member gives the presentation, although the group has brought in special guests at times.

Moore particularly appreciates these faith formation opportunities: “The discussion nights are always my favorite, because I’m more the type of person to speak and connect to others on a spiritual basis… It’s just really nice to see that you can come to a discussion and talk about your day.”

On weeks when they’re not learning more about the faith, the group goes out into the community for social events: beach bonfires, pool parties, movie nights, bowling, and weekend hikes.

Nicole Madro has been attending Ignite regularly since 2013, and she says that she especially enjoys the weeks when the group meets for pizza, beer and board games at Pizza Port, a local brewpub in San Clemente that is an Ignite favorite. “We go to Pizza Port and all just get pizza and beer and talk, because we are a pretty close-knit community. There’s something really nice about sharing the conversation and sharing friendship with people.”

Ignite’s group leader Aleah Tinnes sees social nights as a great chance for Catholics to invite friends who might not otherwise attend a Catholic event, or who are uncertain about attending a Bible study: “For the social nights we’ve got an opportunity to bring a friend who maybe doesn’t feel comfortable coming into a discussion night or Bible study with a bunch of Catholics and maybe they’re not sure about us yet.”

Amidst all the fun activities and faith sharing over the years, Ignite has earned a reputation for being welcoming and open to all young people who are sincere about growing in their Catholic faith, and who want a place where they can be their authentic selves.

Tinnes recalls that she first became involved in Ignite even before she was Catholic, when Chris Tinnes, who is now her husband, invited her to a meeting: “I came with him to a meeting. I was a Protestant at the time… I had a lot of questions about praying to saints and the Virgin Mary, and what the relationship was all about. We would inevitably have a discussion or someone could have a question that would relate back to something that was weighing on me about the Catholic Church. Robbie was so opening and welcoming, as was everybody in the group. I found myself continually opening up a little bit more… I started to feel like I was coming home.”

Moore attributes Ignite’s continued success to its solid foundation in the Catholic faith. “There seems to be a mutual understanding of respect and compassion toward the people in our group and I think that’s due to the way the Holy Spirit has worked… This group has really brought souls back to Christ.”

For anyone looking to join a young adult group that is welcoming, supportive and authentically Catholic, Tinnes says, “We want to hear from you, and we want to be a part of your life, and we want you to be a part of ours. You don’t need to put on airs for us. More than anything, you are welcome, just as you are. You are as God created you and that’s a beautiful thing. We want you to feel like you have a place to talk about anything, grow in your faith, because that is our main focus.”