By Laura Dodson
As Catholic young adults, Patrick and Phoebe Neve are intentional about living their faith and about evangelizing others.
“I realized that I have gifts to be shared,” explained Patrick, 24. “But realistically I can only touch 30 people at a time. So, I must invest the time to teach those 30 to reach out to others. Find people who want to evangelize, teach them how to do it better and empower them — give them the tools — necessary to do it.”
Phoebe, 23, discovered another method. “I found others are interested in my way of life, but I am most effective when I first become a friend,” she said. “I love them because Jesus loves them and then I can explain about Scripture and community.”
Patrick is the coordinator of youth ministry for Archangel Gabriel Parish outside Pittsburgh, frequently writes articles for the bulletin and is co-founder of a Catholic Comedy for Young Adults podcast, www.thecrunchcast.com, which averages 15,000 downloads per month.
The couple were married July 31, 2020 — the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Patrick was quick to point out — and are expecting their first child April 24, Divine Mercy Sunday.
Father Anthony Sciarappa, who is parochial vicar at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Pittsburgh and hired Patrick for his first youth ministry position, presided at their wedding.
“I hired Patrick not just because of his deep love for evangelization, which he’s very good at, but also for his deep care and concern for the kids,” Father Sciarappa said. “He and Phoebe actively live their faith. They wanted to get married and live a sacramental life despite all the restrictions imposed by COVID.
“It was more important to them not to postpone their wedding so their family and friends could be there.”
The priest added, “That’s the kind of genuine faith, that more than anything else is what brings people to Christ.”
Patrick and Phoebe met at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. A member of the Fishers of Men Household, he graduated with a degree in theology and communications and is pursuing a master’s degree.
Over time and in discernment with three priests, he discovered his vocation was not to the priesthood, but to be the best husband and father he could be.
Phoebe graduated with a degree in social work after discerning she could best express God’s mercy by helping people and began her career as a part-time intern in a Catholic Charities transitional housing for men. “It was so incredibly beautiful to help them in every aspect of their lives. I have a passion for this.”
There is a common thread in the couple’s wisdom and confidence — both share a lifelong awareness and love of God’s presence in their lives.
“I wasn’t baptized until I was 2,” Patrick said. “My mother dreamt that an angel told her to get me baptized immediately. My father agreed and they have been faithful Catholics since.”
He attended Catholic preschool “where I was taught to say good morning to God because Jesus is always with me in my heart.”
“In second grade, I knew I wanted to give my life to the church. I started public school in sixth grade and evangelized my classmates to come to our middle school Catholic youth group,” Patrick told Catholic News Service. “I continued through high school and have been inviting ever since.”
Patrick’s first experience of Christ was at eucharistic adoration during his first high school retreat: “I’m going to have to change my life,” he recalled feeling.
A year later at a Steubenville Conference with 4,000 teens, once again the experience of Christ during adoration made him realize “I have to change my friendships — everything.” The day after he returned home, an older teen from youth group invited him to an event with his friends.
“That was it!” Patrick said. “First a mountaintop experience then a community experience welcoming me. My faith life has become one experience after another.”
Phoebe is a “cradle Catholic, raised in the faith,” but she said, “God gave me a supernatural faith, deeply trusting and I loved God because that’s what my mom told me to do. I kept a cross under my pillow and I remember in public school I decorated my name tags with crosses all over. I was in love with God.”
Phoebe’s first profound experience of Christ was at a high school confirmation retreat.
“In confession, I discussed something that had been on my heart for years and I felt God’s mercy so intensely it was a real awakening,” she said. “Everyone needs to experience that ‘I am loved despite whatever I’m going through.
“It was huge in my spiritual life and I decided I wanted to devote my life with intention to become closer to God. It was the beginning of my devotion to Divine Mercy.”
Phoebe explained that she didn’t have a community of Catholic friends nor a youth group. She didn’t have a sense of God in her daily life and struggled without a community to support her. Still, she wanted to major in theology and attended Franciscan University.
“My mind was completely blown by all the Catholic people participating in Mass, confession, adoration and Holy Hours,” she said.
In her second semester, she joined the Daughters of Divine Mercy Household. “Every Monday night we read and discussed St. Faustina’s Diary of Divine Mercy. We prayed and reflected to bring each other closer to living out God’s mercy to others.”
Patrick and Phoebe are intentional about sharing their strong faith, especially with their peers.
Everyone they meet is someone with whom they can share friendship and fellowship; from this personal relationship emerges community.
“You have to invite them out for coffee, drinks, a meal on a one-to-one basis.” Patrick said. “You have to do things that only young adults are interested in, for example a sledding day, events just for them.”
Phoebe added, “Community is really important for young adults especially for those having a difficult time. Parishes need to have resources for them: Bible studies, socials, fellowship is very important and you have to include activities that are comfortable for people not Catholic.
“They find acceptance, then friendship and then they become interested in our Catholic way of life.”
Now that they are expectant parents, against the backdrop of the current debate on abortion, the Neves also are concerned about women who are facing crisis pregnancies and might feel abortion is their only option.
“I will never forget the expression of love on Phoebe’s face when she saw our baby for the first time on the ultrasound,” Patrick said. “We have to realize that there are real women who are hurting and we have to make sure they see another option for them. We want to have an institutional solution to a human problem.
“But if we make abortion illegal, it’s not going to change the issues of the women. … We must change attitudes to make abortion unthinkable,” he added.
“Scientifically, we know that the fetus is a baby,” Phoebe said. “There is no argument. I think pro-choice and pro-life are talking about two different things. Pro-choice focuses on the issues of the mother and pro-life is concerned with the baby. We need to try to enter into a conversation that is level-headed, filled with compassion and love that will help them both.”
“Being pregnant, seeing our baby for the first time at 12 weeks has made me more passionate: That is a human being!” she said.
Another ultrasound Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, showed Patrick and Phoebe their baby is healthy and growing normally. They planned to celebrate Christmas with family and reveal the baby’s gender.