The Diocesan Missionary Team is gearing up for retreats

CHARLESTON – Members of the Diocesan Missionary Team have arrived. This select group of young adults is living at the Drexel House and will hold retreats at parishes and schools across the state to evangelize and form new leaders within the Church. Their inaugural visit is scheduled for St. Mary Church in Greenville on Sept. 16-18. After that, they are booked almost every weekend — and some weekdays — with retreats at over 50 parishes and schools.

Jerry White, director of the diocesan Youth and Young Adults Ministry Office, said they have some weekend openings left, plus weekdays and twilight retreats available. The last day for retreats is June 12.

“I really think there is a need out there,” White said. “I’m excited that so many parishes and schools are reaching out for it.”

Since their arrival in August, the group has hit the ground running. They have been to Masses, attended workshops with diocesan leaders, touched base with parish and school representatives, and worked on the skits and music for their missions.

The group will also spend time at Bishop England and Blessed Sacrament schools to enhance their campus ministry.

White said the goal of the missionary team is to help young people encounter Christ, noting that teenagers are most open to this life-changing event on retreat, when they are away from the noise of the world and can embrace a level of quiet that opens the door to Jesus.

For more information, call Mary Corder at 843-261-0443 or visit

Check out the six members of the Missionary Team below.


Ryan Altenbach

Ryan is from the small town of Lima, Ohio, and has two younger siblings, plus a dog that is “some kind of mutt, but looks like a mop who likes to sleep a lot.”

ryan-altenbach-webHe likes playing video games, listening to podcasts, watching YouTube videos, making fun of terrible movies, and playing sports — especially Quidditch and baseball.

Deep-dish, Chicago style pizza is his favorite, but he “can’t even stomach the smell of green beans.” In the Acts of Mercy, he is drawn to the corporal act to give drink to the thirsty, and the spiritual act of comforting the doubting.

A graduate of Ohio University, Ryan has a degree in broadcast journalism.

“I’ve been asking God for a few years to send me where he wants by opening one door and closing the rest. God has made it abundantly clear that this is where I am supposed to be for the next year, and hopefully for a long time after,” he explained.

“I’m looking forward to getting to know the city of Charleston, especially because I love history and I love ocean towns. I’m also especially excited to interact with the youth ministers throughout the state, and to help them in their ministry in any small way that I can.”


Brianna (Bri) Pavlish

Bri, 23, has two younger siblings and two family dogs (a golden/Australian shepherd mix and a great Pyrenees). She is from Waxhaw, N.C., and describes her town as a Charlotte suburb, but said bri-pavlish-web-2she likes that she can still come across farm land near her house.

“For fun, I enjoy going for walks, and going on adventures. I enjoy listening to music, cooking, and learning about other people through conversations,” Bri said. “In my free time, I enjoy trying new recipes, watching “How I Met Your Mother”, and taking cat naps.”

She is drawn to comforting the sick, and feeding the hungry.

With an associate’s degree in hand, she hopes to also study theology or nutrition.

Bri said she loves youth and relational ministry, and felt God directing her to be part of the DMT, adding that bringing young people closer to Christ is her life purpose.

“I look forward to meeting young people who have a passion for the Lord, and those who have not encountered Him yet. I am excited to see what Jesus has in store!”


Grant Wyatt

Grant, also 23, has a younger sister. He said she never lets him live down the fact that they couldn’t have pets because he’s allergic to cats and dogs.

grant-wyatt-web-2He is from Hoover, Ala., and enjoys watching college football, especially The University of Alabama, Crimson Tide. “ROLL TIDE!”

Grant majored in vocal music education and was trained classically for four years. He plays guitar and likes playing Frisbee, disc golf, and “lying around in a hammock and reading.”

His favorite food is his grandmother’s spaghetti, but said he has trouble with vegetables, joking that “after watching ‘Veggie Tales’, I really don’t want to eat Bob the Tomato.”

Grant said he is drawn to comforting the afflicted.

He left college because he felt a call to missionary work, and spent two years with Life Teen. During prayer and discernment, he felt God directing him to the DMT, and while it’s new and uncharted, Grant said he trusts where the Lord is leading him.

“This year, I am looking forward to getting to know the teens of this diocese and helping them know their worth as sons and daughters of God.”


Alexandra (Alex) Goulet

Alex, 24, said her parents and younger brother currently live in Milwaukee, Wisc., along with the two family dogs. The family moved around a lot, and she has lived in Maine, Virginia, Arizona alex-goulet-web-2(three times), Iowa, Singapore, and California.

She loves painting, crafts, thrift shopping, and watching movies; and has enjoyed exploring downtown Charleston. “I love spending time outdoors; whether it’s hiking, kayaking or just hanging out at the beach.”

Alex said she will always try food at least once, but her favorites are sushi and her grandma’s traditional Guamanian food.

In the Acts of Mercy, she is most drawn to clothing the naked, and cleans out her closet a few times each year to donate clothes.

A former student of Gonzaga University, she left to answer the call to mission work, and spent two years with Life Teen.

“I’m really looking forward to meeting so many teens in this diocese and giving them an opportunity to encounter Christ for the first time in a personal way or dive deeper into that relationship they’re beginning to form.”


Mary Beth Vernau

Mary Beth, 22, has three younger siblings, a “robo-hamster” and a hedgehog. (Also: “amazing parents”.)

mary-beth-vernau-webA native of Irmo, S.C., she attends Our Lady of the Lake Church and is a University of South Carolina girl, “born and raised. Go Gamecocks!”

She loves music and thrift shopping, and is “a huge movie junkie.” She also enjoys researching her patroness St. Mary Magdalene.

Cheese is her favorite food, and she puts it on everything, she said, but seafood is non-negotiable. “Fish are friends, not food,” she explained, quoting “Finding Nemo.”

Like Alex, Mary Beth is also drawn to the corporal act of mercy to clothe the naked. A recent graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, she earned a bachelor’s in catechetics and theology, with a concentration in youth ministry.

Mary Beth served on the diocesan E-Team and was formed by retreats, conferences, and community, and said she wants to give back. “Growing up I often heard people speak on Mother Teresa’s observation of people in America — that we showed a deep spiritual poverty. It struck me, especially in college, that missionaries were needed just as badly in America as they are abroad.”

“I’m excited to visit new parishes and be able to engage with teens all over the state, and hopefully lead them to Christ in a way they may not have experienced before.”


Samuel Pierce

Samuel has three siblings and had a pet bird named Tobit.

samuel-pierce-webHe is from Aiken, S.C., which he refers to as a “horsetown”, and bemoans the lack of entertainment there.

One of his favorite things to do is play and write music, and “swim in whatever water source there is.”

“I like all food, especially shrimp,” Samuel said, adding that one of his favorite movies is “Forest Gump” and he’ll be hitting up Bubba Gump’s frequently!

His least favorite thing, when it comes to food, is an empty fridge.

Samuel said he’s drawn to outreach with youth because he feels a great connection with them and wants to help them build a stronger relationship with Christ.