February 19, 2021

New website hopes to set Catholic youths on fire for their faith

Aiden Galt, center left, and Alex Rapp, center right, speak with Archbishop Charles C. Thompson alongside other participants of the Missionary Disciples Institute hosted by Marian University on June 20, 2019. During the conference, Aidan had the inspiration to create INFLAME Catholic, a website and social media platform run by teenagers that is designed to build a community of young Catholics and other Christians. (Submitted photo)

Aiden Galt, center left, and Alex Rapp, center right, speak with Archbishop Charles C. Thompson alongside other participants of the Missionary Disciples Institute hosted by Marian University on June 20, 2019. During the conference, Aidan had the inspiration to create INFLAME Catholic, a website and social media platform run by teenagers that is designed to build a community of young Catholics and other Christians. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

At 17, Sarah Getman knows that many teenagers struggle with feelings of being alone and isolated—who wish there was someone to talk to about the direction of their lives and the questions they have surrounding their faith and their relationship with God.

“Being a young person in the Church can feel lonely and daunting, especially in areas in which there is a small Catholic population or few young people to talk to,” says Sarah, a member of St. Mary Parish in the southern Indiana community of Mitchell.

“In high school and college, we begin really pondering the facts of our existence as we start to form our own ideas about the world, often diverging from the ideas of our parents. Although young people may have mentors and adults in the Church that can help them as they grapple with these questions, there are situations in which they don’t have people their own age to talk to who are also experiencing these things.”

That’s why Sarah became involved with INFLAME Catholic, a relatively new website and social media platform run by teenagers that is designed to build a community of young Catholics and other Christians—and create an outlet where they can share their thoughts and questions about their faith.

“I hope INFLAME is a beacon of hope, a sign that there are others who are seeking, and that we’re there to help each other along the way,” Sarah says. “Those of us at INFLAME are also seeking the truth, also grappling with the questions and struggles of life; but we believe that those questions and struggles will be put to rest, in time, with the help of the Lord.”

‘A positive way that glorifies God’

The inspiration for INFLAME came to Aidan Galt when he attended the Missionary Disciples Institute at Marian University in Indianapolis during the summer of 2019. Every participant there was challenged to come up with a plan to improve their communities.

Now 17, Aidan initially thought of writing a few articles about his faith and submitting them to websites. Yet after talking with other teens at the institute, he decided to create a website where “anyone can write whatever they want about their own faith experiences.”

“I also knew from these conversations that there was a vast audience for the kind of Catholic material that was catered not to the older, better-versed faithful, but to the young and curious ones, like myself and my companions at the institute,” says Aidan, a member of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis.

“There were plenty of concerns that we had as young people and as followers of God. Not only did we want to answer them for ourselves, but we wanted to provide a credible, positive place for people like us to go to resolve those concerns. INFLAME was the best way that I could think of that I could better my community.”

Aidan views INFLAME as his way to follow God’s call to have a spiritual impact on his peers.

“Catholicism and God have always been at the center of everything I do,” he says. “I’m mostly motivated by what Christ taught me to do: To love my neighbors as I love myself, and to treat them as I would treat Jesus himself. I’ve learned that when God calls me to do something, there is no choice but to do it, and INFLAME is certainly a big one of those things for me. 

“A main part of the point of the website, along with building this online community for our faithful peers, is to provide a place to express our creativity in a positive way that glorifies God. That will include a YouTube channel in the not-so-distant future where we’re hoping to put skits, music, podcasts and any other form of Catholic, entertaining and creative content we can think up.”

‘The hope of our faith’

At 18, Piper Ogden joined the INFLAME staff as social media director after she “was struck by the personal, inspiring stories of teenagers’ intimate encounters with Christ” that appeared on its website.

That theme resonated with her.

“God and his constant pursuit of a relationship with me means everything,” says Piper, a member of St. Pius X Parish in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, in the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio.

“My faith shapes my decisions. My faith is my moral compass. My faith helps me discover my purpose, assume the best in people, and serve those around me.”

She has also counted on her Catholic faith to help her through the toughest times of her life.

“I have especially had to rely upon my faith in times of loss and hardship,” she says. “What keeps me going is the hope our faith gives: the promise of eternal life, Christ’s example of sacrificial love, and the fact that whenever we have some heavy weights on our shoulders, God is always alongside us helping to carry our cross and healing our brokenness.”

Being involved with INFLAME gives her a way to share that foundation of faith with others, she says.

“My hopes for INFLAME Catholic are to share the love of Christ with other teens, reminding them of their infinite value as children of God.

“I hope we can provide a welcoming, safe space for all youth to have a voice, for those super invested in their faith, to those questioning their beliefs, to those initially encountering the Lord.”

Sharing faith in the 21st century

The faith and commitment of INFLAME’s leadership team has impressed its mentor, Joe Ruf, the youth minister at St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis.

“Each individual has a heart for service and is using that to help bring other members of the young Church closer to God,” Ruf says. “They stay behind the scenes, bringing their God-given talents to INFLAME so that their ministry remains focused on Christ and not themselves. The team is a powerful witness to the universal Church.”

As one of INFLAME’s leaders, 16-year-old Drew Early stresses that “any young Catholic can join our team.”

“Our target audience is other Catholic youth, though we love it when people of all ages or religious beliefs interact with our content,” says Drew, a member of St. Benedict Cathedral Parish in Evansville, Ind., in the Evansville Diocese.

Piper notes that INFLAME’s website and social media connections reflect the way people are called to share their faith in the 21st century.

“It’s using the gift of technology to work for the glory of God,” Piper says.

At the same time, it’s also using the gift of one’s personal faith to draw others closer to God, Sarah says.

“One of the things I love about our faith is that it is made for the inquisitive of mind, but it is also made for the inquisitive of heart,” Sarah says.

“For me, Catholicism has been an adventure of the mind and the soul—a path which I’ve wandered through every stage of my life, that has informed and influenced my worldview, and that has made me who I am today. I’m excited to grow in my faith by telling others about it.”
 

(For more information about INFLAME, to join its team or to contribute material to its website, visit inflamecatholic.org/contact.)

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