Emmanuel Villalpando seems to be a shy man, but he is the opposite. His interest in the salvation of souls and his God-given inspiration led him to create OMNIA, a website where he creates unity and a greater community of Catholics. So far the group has 1,405 members on Facebook, including one special follower: Auxiliary Bishop of Orange, the Most Rev. Tim Freyer.
“Our intention is to make a network among young Catholics, so that they know each other, help each other and are motivated,” says Villalpando. “Thus, we make the Church where young adults can nourish their faith, grow in their faith and make our Church stronger.”
One of the group’s goals is to ensure that when the youth of any parish –– or those who belong to any ministry of Youth and Young Adults within the Diocese of Orange or the Archdiocese of Los Angeles ––have been confirmed in the faith, that they can find the group and with it, a place with others who share the same religious values and faith in God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary, the Pope and the Church.
“We promote events and place them on Facebook because there are people who study and work, and sometimes it is difficult for them to find out where they can go to feed their faith,” said Arturo Ortiz, a member of the group. “Faith is our life and our union as brothers in Christ.”
A little over a year ago, Villalpando celebrated the debut of OMNIA Catholic –– meaning EVERYTHING in Italian. The group had been known as Connected Catholics, but a Facebook group already existed with that name.
As the group grew, Villalpando was joined by Thang Pham and Alejandra Bolívar as the site administrators. The moderators in the network are Aldo Flores, Jacqueline Koh, Andy Sison, Nhan Le, Rigo Dominguez, and Jonathan Blanco.
“A friend was inviting me to one or two Catholic events, but her texts came to me alone through Messenger, until I thought we could reach more people on another platform and shared the idea with Emmanuel,” recalled Arturo Ortiz. “I began to notice that many young adult Catholics did not have a place to go, and now they can figure out according to their schedules and flexibility, when they can or cannot go anywhere, by publishing the event on Facebook.”
For his part, Villalpando expressed that, thanks to Catholic community, OMNIA’s mission is encouraging young people and young adults to experience Christ through enriching and up-to-date Catholic events with the purpose of fostering parish and inter-diocesan bonds.
He said the OMNIA group members noticed that most ministries are dedicated to young people and preach the gospel message, but it only included and focused on Catholics who shared their common mission and vision; but in OMNIA they’re achieving global growth experiences in the faith.
“It’s not about saying that a ministry says that this or that is the way to be Catholic; if the person does not feel identified with a ministry, he or she regularly leaves the ministry, and if there’s no follow-up on their needs, sometimes they leave the Church,” Villalpando said. “Through OMNIA we wanted to break that window of what it means to be a Catholic; we seek that young people recognize God and encourage the traditions of the Church, the charismatic movement or the biblical study, etc.”
He said if anyone wants to learn more, “we have to encourage him/her to listen to the teachings of our Bishops, that they feel a collective embrace so that our current and future members of the Church can have a range of options and select what it means to be Catholics in different areas of Southern California.”
For now, 21 parishes in the Diocese of Orange offer ministry groups and options for young people, from La Habra to San Juan Capistrano, and from Orange to Seal Beach. Groups include Fishers of Life (FLOCC), Singles for Christ, Canvas, OLG Young Adults, Secret Fire, Upper Room, Firelight, Holy Spirit Young Adults, Awaken, Search for Christ, Rooted/Young Knights, Journey Earthen Vessels, OC Catholic Brunch, Rise, Anchor, Thrive, Ignite, Theology on Tap, Gianna Club and Young Catholic Professionals.
Villalpando added that being Catholic means fulfilling the sacraments of the Holy Mother Church and, through it, creating and training disciples to preach the word of God to men.
“My passion is that no young or young adult Catholic is left behind in the teachings of the Church, and that is why we have asked parishes to inform us so that we can all see and perhaps attend their events,” he said. “We did not want to do anything without the permission of our Roman Catholic Church; we are growing, and the goal is to reach more than 50 parishes in Orange County, and especially those where there are no groups that provide space for young people and adults between 18 and 40 years.”