While growing up, MaryKathleen Scordato’s parents urged her and her siblings to always serve God in service projects, retreats, volunteer work, helping the poor and homeless, doing missionary work, or taking a year off to give back to God.
The 22-year-old member of St. Charles Parish in Hartland took her parents’ advice to heart and became a missionary with Spiritus, a youth and young adult evangelization ministry.
The program consists of a dozen young adult missionaries in their 20s who donate nine months of their lives to serve the Church. The Menasha-based ministry inspires Catholic youth throughout the state through retreats and youth ministry and throughout the country through virtual retreats while forming lifelong missionary disciples and leaders for the Church.
The program’s history began at the La Salle Retreat Center in 1983 under the direction of Dan Landowski and Richard Roller, F.S.C. They provided hospitality, faith formation and youth retreats. In 1999, Sr. Mary Jo Kirt, O.S.F., became the administrator, and the name was changed to the Mount Tabor Center. The new name reflected the mission of the youth retreat facility as a place of transformation.
In 2003, Eden and Katherine Foord became the new directors of the Mount Tabor Center, and the ministry quickly grew. In 2009, Spiritus was started to keep up with the growing ministry in response to the call of Pope Benedict XVI for young adults to enter into the mission of the Church. Over the past several years, Spiritus has expanded to multiple teams, providing the ability to inspire more than 5,300 young adults on more than 150 retreats each year.
Scordato applied to Spiritus after attending community college for a few years. After her commitment concludes, she plans to go back to complete her nursing degree.
“I heard about Spiritus through a previous member I met in a club at school,” Scordato said. “It seemed like such a good fit with my desire to bring my instrument — I am a harpist, and use my gifts and talents through ministry.”
While serving as a missionary, the young adults live at the Center, where they are divided into three households. The men live in one house, and the women live in the other two households.
“We all still try to have events and outings where we are all bonding as a team and not only as households,” Scordato said. “We serve the Catholic youth of Wisconsin with retreats and some faith formation and catechesis from August through May.”
Unlike the typical missionary, the missionaries at Mount Tabor Center don’t raise their own money, as there is staff to fundraise throughout the year for benefactors. However, it is common for one of the missionaries to offer a Mass appeal during the retreats, Scordato said.
“As a missionary, we are given chores and designated duties that need to be completed,” Scordato said. “This is more than just giving retreats. We also help out around the retreat center, take care of vehicles, do grocery shopping, and make personal connections with the donors and those that give to us missionaries in any way. My personal job is handwriting the thank you cards that go out to those who give to Spiritus and help us out. The missionary in charge of leading the retreat has the job of contacting the person who scheduled the retreat and organized it. This year, the team is scheduled for 175 retreats, and we go on roughly four to eight retreats a week.”
The 12 Spiritus missionaries come from across the United States, with four from Wisconsin this year and one from Colombia.
Katie Krantz from St. Frances Cabrini in West Bend participated on Spiritus Team 10 after college because she felt a pull toward something outside of the “normal” career path.
“I wanted to serve and had met some former missionaries who loved and were blessed by their time as a Spiritus missionary,” Krantz said. “I came back for Team 13 because I felt a pull back to the community and active missionary work after a lot of interior growth during the height of the pandemic. I am so grateful to be back serving within the school of love that is Spiritus.”
For Krantz, 26, who majored in nonprofit management and Spanish language and culture at UW-Green Bay, going back to a regular career path is no longer a desire. Instead, she is discerning a vocation to religious life.
“I just sent my application to the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. In August, God willing, I will be moving to Cleveland, Ohio, to join them as a postulant in formation,” she said. “Spiritus is a great environment to discern Our Lady of Mercy; pray for us.”
On this year’s team, Krantz serves as a Servant Leader, which means she gives retreats and assists with supporting new missionaries and acclimating them to their lifestyle.
“I also head a household of women and call the team together as a community,” she said. “It is a true blessing to serve others in this way. Our team has given over 70 retreats so far. My usual workload includes about four or five retreats per week. The other time in our week is used to pray, be formed and prepare for upcoming retreats.”
Young adults interested in inspiring youth as a Spiritus missionary can contact Sarah Rudd at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on Spiritus, visit https://www.spiritusministries.org.