Inspiring youth to love their Catholic Faith

By Jeff Miller
Special to The Texas Catholic

Bridget Hanafin, a second-year teacher at Christ the King Catholic School, will be responsible for about 100 young people and seminarians for 10 days when the contingent from the Diocese of Dallas attends the six-day World Youth Day gathering in Lisbon, Portugal in early August. The most stressful portion of the assignment, Hanafin said, will take place … now!

“This is when we’re recruiting, when we’re getting all the paperwork together, we’ll plan spiritual formation days prior to going,” said Hanafin, who plays multiple roles at the school but is primarily a theology teacher. “Once we get there, once we get to Portugal, it’s smooth sailing. Our travel company will set up our itinerary. The itinerary from the World Youth Day organizers is really easy to follow.”

School president Patrick O’Sullivan and principal Lisa Bosco say Hanafin lives her faith life in many ways at the school every day. Her organizational skills were also a huge factor in her being selected to oversee so many people on a trip abroad.

“I’m very much a Type-A person,” Hanafin said with a laugh. “I operate off of order, off of schedules and to-do lists and binders for everything. It’s just an innate part of me.”

Hanafin has previously experienced World Youth Day, in Rio de Janeiro in 2013 as part of a Catholic group from her native Missouri.

“I was presented with the opportunity (to lead Dallas’ youth group in 2023) and embraced it,” Hanafin said. “I love being able to connect with the various parishes, the organizational element of it. Watching other young adults experience this massive stage of our Catholicism for the first time just ignited me.”

Two diocesan staffers will join her as the group’s leadership team in Portugal. One of those will be Josh Salinas, the director of youth, young adult and campus ministries.

“On top of her exceptional organizational skills, she’s very passionate as an evangelist,” Salinas said. “I think it’s always been a passion of hers to connect others to the global church.”

Salinas witnessed how comfortable Hanafin is in a foreign environment when they spent time together in Rome while earning master’s degrees in pastoral ministry from the University of Dallas. She’s now pursuing her doctorate.

All this after being on track at Northwest Missouri State majoring in biological psychology headed for pre-med.

“I know it’s crazy,” she said, with another laugh.

“When you get called, you respond to the calling,” Bosco said, “and that definitely speaks to her commitment to Catholic education.”
Hanafin came to Christ the King following two experiences with Texas Catholics — as a missionary at The Pines Catholic Camp for a year and working in parish ministry at St. Jude Catholic Church in Allen.

She teaches three grade levels of theology, oversees Christ the King’s campus ministry program for all grades (pre-K through 8) and this year added being the director of faculty formation. Oh, she also coaches volleyball.

“The big piece we see is her ability to form relationships and meet people where they’re at, see where they are in their spiritual formation but then help guide them and walk with them so it’s not like they’re doing it alone,” O’Sullivan said.