Bringing young adults together in faith

Wenholz starts Novus Ignis to build holy friendships for the journey

Your Catholic Neighbor: Zoe Wenholz (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

GREEN BAY— Zoe Wenholz wanted to be a part of a post-high school Catholic young adult group for ages 18 to 24 — so she started one. Novus Ignis (New Fire) meets at 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Fridays of each month at Nativity of Our Lord Church in Ashwaubenon.

“I know there are a lot of young adult groups in the area for 18 to 30 or 18 to 40 (year-olds). I wanted something that was a little bit smaller and involved those young people that were going through that same journey that I was, that were on that same path in life, figuring out what they want to do in life,” said Wenholz, a first-year student at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay. “My thought was not that it’s bad to have that big of a group, but (that) a person my age, 18, is much different than a person who is 30 or 40. I wanted to start it up in hopes to be able to bring together people to grow in faith.”

The first meeting this fall of Novus Ignis began with eucharistic adoration, followed by a social that included games. Another gathering featured a witness talk and improvisational acting games. Jim Ball, coordinator of Northeast Wisconsin 40 Days for Life, will speak at an upcoming meeting. The group will then pray on a Sunday outside Planned Parenthood in Ashwaubenon as part of the 40-day vigil. Wenholz said that there is no standard format for the group.

“I like to change it up. It’s not always the same thing every time,” she said. “I’m really humbled that (Bishop David Ricken) is actually going to be able to come to speak to our group.

“I just really want to enjoy people’s company and make good friends,” said Wenholz about what she hopes to take personally from the group. “I think it’s important in life that you have good friends who are willing to help you get to heaven. In college, it can be hard if you don’t have a good faith presence. It’s important to have that somewhere else, to have those good holy friends who will help you on your journey.”

Wenholz was homeschooled, beginning in preschool. She is thankful for the friendships she formed and the numerous opportunities provided through the homeschool community.

“There is a big community of homeschoolers,” she said. “My (three) brothers play basketball for the (Northeast Wisconsin Christian Homeschool Athletic Association). I’ve been in musical theater productions that have been directed by homeschool associations.”

Wenholz lists spending time with friends and the arts — acting, singing, playing the violin, drawing and writing — as her favorite pastimes. She began playing the violin at age 4 and first played at Mass at St. Agnes Church in Green Bay at age 7.

“My mom (Molly) has sung at church as long as I can remember,” she said. “Our priest mentioned having some classical instruments and he knew I played the violin. I play every Sunday when my mom sings. The two of us sing together as well. I love doing it. That’s mostly where I play my violin. I’m not in a symphony or anything like that. I love music. It’s nice to be able to use that talent to serve God.”

Service opportunities also interest Wenholz. She graduated last spring from the Maidens of the Altar, based at SS. Peter and Paul Church in Green Bay. The group, for young girls, explores the virtues of Mary and provides service.

“We’ve served meals at the New Community Shelter, the homeless shelters, helped out with church picnics, made gifts for the homebound, all sorts of ministry stuff,” she said. “Some of my best friends were in it with me.”

In addition to her class schedule, Wenholz works weekdays as a certified nursing assistant at St. Gianna Clinic in De Pere. She said that she appreciates the willingness of the staff to continue to teach her, the kindness of the doctors and that everyone can share their faith.

“The good reward is seeing the way the patients react if you can share (faith-related) stories with them, and they will talk with me about their faith,” she said. “They know they can talk about it at the clinic. The challenges are that sometimes there’s an unhappy patient or something can be confusing (for the patient). You work through that with your co-workers.”

Wenholz said she hopes that Novus Ignis continues to grow as members invite their friends. Most of the young adults are from the Green Bay/De Pere area, but some travel from other areas, including Appleton, Luxemburg and Oshkosh. The group has fostered new friendships, she said.

“A number of us from the young adult group decided to go to a movie together,” said Wenholz. “We went walking together on Sunday. People have been forming friendships. It’s definitely been working.”

For more information about Novus Ignis, email at [email protected].

Name: Zoe Wenholz
Parish: St. Agnes, Green Bay
Age: 18
Favorite saint: Thérèse of Lisieux
Words to live by: “Do little things with great love.”