By Christina Leslie | Correspondent
Though new to the position of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, coordinator of faith formation for youth and young adults, Matthew Santucci has logged hundreds of miles in his goal to bring the Good News to Catholic youth.
Upon earning a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Va., where he had been active in campus ministry, Santucci joined NET Ministries, a national evangelization program which sends young adults ages 18-28 on nine-month trips to share the Gospel with young people and their families.
“About 180 of us split into 16 teams and served as missionaries,” the self-described cradle Catholic recalled. “My group travelled the northeast, and among other places, we served in the dioceses of Trenton, Camden and Newark.”
Upon learning of the opening in St. Benedict Parish’s religious education program, the Virginia native made the move to New Jersey and learned about disco fries, angry drivers and the ongoing debate about whether there is truly a Central Jersey.
In his new position, working with Melissa Dayton, director of parish faith formation, Santucci is responsible for many aspects of youth religious education; in addition to teaching seventh and eighth grade Confirmation preparation classes, he heads up the parish’s middle school, high school and young adult youth groups as well.
“But the youth group is not the way to salvation,” he hastened to add. “It is the Sacraments, and taking on the Catholic identity.”
As part of that Catholic identity, Santucci believes in outward signs of faith, including his bracelets depicting 33 days to morning glory, a self-retreat program; another with small icons depicting his new parish’s patron, St. Benedict, and a large crucifix unique to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal which depicts the blood and water from Christ’s side arcing over His head, then culminating in a dove: the Holy Spirit.
The third member of the Holy Trinity will be his guide this year. Santucci noted his goals for the year include “inspiring and passing on the faith, helping the young people learn and be convinced it is the true faith. I want them to keep on coming, and be hungry for more,” he said.