September 16. Friday. About 5 p.m. Basketball court at St. Peter Chanel Church in Hawaiian Gardens.A year ago David Castillo, 24, would have been alone somewhere in Denver drinking alcohol, sniffing heroin or smoking any other hard core drug. Tonight he is getting ready for the “Fun Night.”Lorena Robles, 31, joins him at the court’s bench. Without losing her “cool” she is orchestrating (or juggling, to be more exact) the activities for the night: Phone calls here and there paired with runs to the parish’s office where she is training new staff plus an interview with the visitor. She finally settles.September 2. Friday. About 6 p.m. Same basketball court. Pizza boxes are piled on top of a table. A few sodas on the side. Several young people start gathering. One of them is friendly Tony Sully, 33, who starts greeting and shaking hands as soon as he arrives. Robles has arrived minutes before.This time it’s “Truth Night.” A week before it was “Prayer Night.”The three are the co-founders of St. Peter Chanel’s Young Adults Group.“But it’s not the ‘ordinary’ type of group,” the three of them claim (almost shouting.) They want it to be a place where people can grow spiritually by being “bolder, real and honest.”They are aiming to draw Catholics, non-practicing Catholics and non-Catholics from surrounding cities with a simple formula: openness (to all ethnicities, all kinds of concerns or beliefs regarding faith, all kinds of people regardless of their income or background) combined with fun activities.During Truth Night about 35 men and women ages 18 to mid-30s show up. After an hour of greeting and chatting they head to a small patio at the back of the church where the Blessed Sacrament can be seen from a window. The young adults sit on the floor forming a circle and after a short opening prayer, they start the round of questions and answers. A young woman opens a box, gets a small piece of paper and reads the first question for the whole group.“What would you do and tell a close relative who lives with her boyfriend but has not had her marriage annulled?”First answer from a group member: “Prayer: Pray for her, for her boyfriend, and for God to guide you before saying anything.” Second answer: “Inform and educate yourself about your concerns before addressing the issue with your relative.”Third answer: “Share your ideas with love and without judging.”Once the ice is broken with the first question, a longer discussion is generated by the second question: “How does one know there’s good and evil?” and the third, “Differences between different types of prayers: vocal, contemplative, meditation. Which one’s the best one?”, and fourth, “Is Mass the best place to pray. What about Adoration?”Dating questions are also included, plus some regarding religion’s history. On other occasions, vocations have also been a concern.During prayer nights the group “dives” into Scripture readings and discussion.Following the beatSept. 16. David and Lorena arrive at the Student Union building at Cal State Long Beach. It’s Catholic Newman Club’s kick-off night. The young adults group has managed to draw many of the club’s members and they are there to support in return.Vocalist and beat boxer Paul Jisung Kim is performing. The philosophy student also attends the young adults group.He asks for volunteers to join him at the stage. Two young women and two young men step up.They are there to help him “do some beats,” he tells them. “So many voices say so many things,” he reflects out loud. The four do their beats, most of them jokingly. It’s just about having fun. One of the girls surprises the young audience. She earns a longer applause for her strong, rhythmic vocal chords. Kim is surprised as well. “Actually, I’ll record these beats right now,” he says, while hitting some keys of his beat box with his feet, “to use them in the future [in an album],” he announces. After a short introduction he proceeds to sing “Run, Fly, Fall”, also the name of his new album.“Run and get whatever we want as long as we don’t get hurt,” he sings.A group to ‘fit in’Not Castillo’s case. The guitar player and songwriter did get hurt before. But this time he has made a resolution to support the St. Peter Chanel group. Sitting next to Robles, he recalls when he brought up the idea of forming this “unique” group where “everybody could fit in.” In his teenage years he sensed the Church was narrowing its opportunities for kids like him to express themselves. Yes, he had a spiritual director, an Oblate of the Virgin Mary, who happened to be Robles’ spiritual director as well.Born and raised by devout Catholic parents, at 12 years old he became an altar boy, then started playing guitar with the Church band and then became a member of the youth group. He even participated in Toronto’s World Youth Day in 2002. It was not enough. Each day he felt a little farther from his peers in church. Once he graduated from high school and with some college courses under his belt, he started working at a Costco. He was 18 and his parents decided to move to Denver, where cost of living is more affordable compared to California. He decided to stay behind with an older brother. To that point his social life had revolved around church. He started accepting invitations to meals with co-workers, then to drink a beer, which turned into two beers and more. Eventually, he was using drugs and partying most of the time, until he stopped working. Thinking things would change, he moved closer to his parents. But after a while, he was hanging with the “wrong crowd” again. He wanted to stop, but could not. Five years passed. He tried confession, talking to his spiritual director and to his parents. It helped, but after a while he fell into deeper guilt and shame. Meanwhile, Robles (who had been his best friend in church), was fulfilling her longtime dream. She had entered the convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Boston, where she stayed for eight years, professing temporary vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. But when the time came to profess the final vows, she discerned Jesus was calling her out of religious life.Back in California, she was hired by the Oblates and she longed to see her close friend. Called his parents and learned about his misfortune. Feeling uncomfortable, she decided to pay a visit. She knew it was challenging, but she hung on to her strong faith.Castillo paid attention to her words and accepted attending a spiritual retreat led by their spiritual director who happened to be in the United States for a few days from the Philippines, where he is based. “It was a week and a half by this time last year; I had not prayed for five years and right then and there I decided to quit [using drugs],” he said. He has been sober since.In December he visited California and it was then that he shared his idea of a young adults group with Robles and Sully, a former Benedictine monk.He recently decided to stay in California and while he looks for a job he has recorded a single and is in the process of writing songs and discerning, researching and attending concerts in an effort to find ways of creating music that could be more appealing to non-practicing Catholic youth.Back at the Newman Club, Omar Jauregui, 20, says he has liked what he has heard at St. Peter Chanel’s young adults group. “They are strong, good people,” said the Cal State junior. “I have heard things that help me grow stronger and closer to God and to the Church.”“It’s a great vibe from everyone here,” said Emmanuel Alva, 23, a St. Peter Chanel member for the last two years. “I like how they split Friday nights. It helps me a lot in my daily life,” continued the auto mechanic.Coming from all walks of life and backgrounds, in its early stage the group also benefits from the spiritual experience they bring from their membership in different parishes or from their participation in international events.Take Lorenz Madarang, 25, a scientist working for the Air Force in satellite research and testing, and sister and brother Rebecca Kerlagon, 19 (college freshman), and high school senior Timothy Kerlagon, 18.The three recently came back from Madrid’s World Youth Day where they experienced an “overwhelming, hard-to-describe peace and happiness.”Robles, Castillo and Sully have attended the international event in prior years and they all think this new group should reflect what has been stressed there: a need to spread the Gospel beyond Church walls.“The city was full of people from all over the world enjoying being Christian, being Catholic. People were always singing, everyone was really happy. A real community,” said the Kerlagons and Madarang.“That’s what we want, a real community where we can go dancing and singing and be totally normal, including everyone without compromising our Catholic values,” said Robles and Castillo about the new group.Other fun nights have included going dancing to a disco or eating at a restaurant.For more information about St. Peter Chanel’s Young Adults Group, call the parish office, (562) 924-7591.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0923/spyoungadults/{/gallery}