Coming together for praise, worship, and potluck

By Allyson Escobar     4/28/2016

The Pro Sanctity Movement West’s retreat center in Fullerton shares the same block along with St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church and school, not far off the 91 freeway.

The retreat center is home to a sacred chapel, dining/living room, dormitories, and three Apostolic Oblates (AO)—including Joan Patten, who moved to Southern California from Nebraska in the fall of 2013, to help the Pro Sanctity Movement’s mission of promoting the universal call to holiness, by providing a space and resources for people who are looking to deepen their commitment to Christ.

In her first year as an AO based in Orange County, Patten sought out ways to connect with Catholics in the diocese. In particular, she saw a great need for young adults around the area to gather in community.

“I wanted to make the Pro Sanctity retreat center more available to young people, and we have a beautiful chapel in the space. That, not everybody can offer,” Patten said.

“I had met a lot of young adults at the [California State University, Fullerton] Catholic Newman Club winter retreat in January 2014. All of these college students, young people were suddenly connecting through ministry. We wanted to continue doing things together,” Patten recalled. “I started thinking, wouldn’t it be great to have a young adult potluck once a month, where people could come together and have fellowship?”

Initially, she wanted to host a young adult party and gathering at the Pro Sanctity Center, which is often used for short retreats by parochial and diocesan groups, ministries, priests, couples, and religious. But the call became something much deeper.

Pope John Paul II wrote an apolistic letter, Dies Domini, which talks about Sunday being the Lord’s Day, a full day of rest and holiness. The document explores the meaning of the Holy Sabbath, and became a part of the foundation for Joan’s monthly gathering for young adults.

“I wanted to make it consistently on a Sunday after mass, to incorporate praise and worship, and to make Holy Adoration and the sacrament of confession available. I also wanted to throw a party—to gather young adults together, in restful fellowship, on the day of rest,” she said. “So I called it Potluck and Praise.”

The first Potluck and Praise evenings began in early 2014, with the help of a few talented young adults eager to play music for praise and worship.

Jancarlo Singh, a youth and young adult minister at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Chino Hills, is one of those eager musicians.

“One of my goals that year was to start networking with a few of the parishes around the area, as well as with a couple of the college campuses nearby. Leaders from each group [St. Denis in Diamond Bar, St. Martin de Porres in Yorba Linda, students from CSU Fullerton and Cal Poly Pomona Newman Clubs] helped with the Fullerton’s annual Newman retreat, and there we met Joan,” Singh shared. “After a very successful retreat—and after discovering that a few of us play music, myself included—Joan had an idea to continue the fellowship that had started, and she called it ‘Potluck & Praise.’ She invited all of us to the Pro Sanctity Center to meet and mingle, and as one Church, to adore Jesus.”

Through personal invite or on Facebook, every third Sunday night of the month became a community of close friends. Soon a dozen, and then two dozen–young adults were coming to the Potluck & Praise evenings, bringing with them dishes to share and open, eager hearts for God.

“My junior and senior year of college, I developed a strong desire for the Eucharist. Frequently going to daily Mass and Eucharistic Adoration really strengthened my faith,” said Candice Punzalan, a student involved with CSU Fullerton’s Catholic Newman Club. “At Potluck and Praise, I get to respond to the Lord’s love for me through song. I look forward to singing before the Blessed Sacrament. And I’m not alone—I’m surrounded by some of my best friends who are singing with me.”

“The reason I look forward to Potluck & Praise is the fact that I get to come together with my ‘YAM’-ily (Young Adult family) and pray together,” added Singh. “I can come to a place which can be considered another home, and be with family; community I that I don’t have to worry about anything else, except for the present moment.”

He continued, “The community that we have built is amazing, because each of us isn’t worried about what others are going to think, and we enable each other to live out our Catholic faith. Another thing I enjoy is when someone new comes to join us, because they found out about it either online, or from one of the flyers.”

The monthly event has grown to include young adults from different parishes and dioceses, and involves a tradition of night prayer sung between the men and women, singing the liturgy of the hours in harmony.

“This is a beautiful way to rest on Sunday. God wants to give us great friends and relationships, because we are on the path to become saints together,” said Patten. “We’re all busy, but if we give God even an hour of our time, He gives us the rest of the week to do the things we need to. We have to give Jesus the time if we’re meant to have a relationship with Him.”

She added, “I’m really grateful to be able to provide this space for people to meet each other, and especially, to meet Jesus. It’s beautiful to also hear what you don’t see—the impact it’s made on people, being in front of the Blessed Sacrament. What’s being offered in this event is something real.”

The final Potluck & Praise meeting of the summer (with adoration, confession, praise and worship, and young adult fellowship) will be on May 15, the Feast of Pentecost, at the Pro Sanctity Center in Fullerton.