Do Catholic schools really matter? Young adults say 'Yes': Meet Patrick Arguelles

Catholic schools across the nation will celebrate Catholic Schools Week Jan. 26 to Feb. 1, providing an opportunity to showcase how they demonstrate their value time and time again – with superior academic outcomes and high graduation and college placement rates, all supported by strong moral values.

No doubt, Catholic graduates make a positive contribution to society and are more likely to practice their faith as young adults. Studies conducted in the past five years by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University show that among millennials (young adults born since 1982), there is a strong correlation between Catholic education and Mass attendance with Catholic-educated young adults more than six times more likely to attend Mass weekly, participate in their parish, volunteer and tithe. Twenty-three percent of millennial Catholics have attended a Catholic elementary school at some point in their lives. Four millennial-age Catholic school alumni of the Diocese of Sacramento – Ameyalli Chavez, Eric Jackson, Robyn Williams and Patrick Arguelles — are living proof that Catholic schools do matter. They share their experiences with Catholic Herald magazine, all citing the component of their faith as the guiding force in their lives.

Meet Patrick Arguelles

For Patrick Arguelles, 29, education in Catholic schools made all the difference in his faith life as a young adult. He is a 2004 graduate of St. Catherine of Siena School and a 2008 graduate of St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School, both in Vallejo.

Forming the habit of going to Mass in Catholic school loomed large in his growing-up years. He went to Mass each Friday at St. Catherine of Siena School in addition to Sunday Mass at the parish with his family.

He received the sacraments of first Eucharist and reconciliation, and served as a candle-bearer for four years, assisting at Masses.

He formed his deeply ingrained Catholic convictions during his nine years at St. Catherine. “In everything, we were taught how to treat people with respect,” he notes. “Studying the Ten Commandments and Scripture, plus the parts of the Mass and social justice, gave me the background and understanding of my faith from a young age. I understood this is how Jesus taught and treated people, and how we were to do the same toward others.”

At St. Patrick-St. Vincent, being involved in campus ministry was significant for his development. “I was very shy and introverted, but somehow I signed up for the most extroverted ministry of hospitality, greeting other students at liturgies and other activities,” he says. “It stretched me, but I believed I was doing it for God, my fellow students and service.” He also experienced leadership camps with campus ministry participants and members of the student council and as a senior served on the retreat team.

In his junior and senior years, he discerned that he wanted to be a seminarian for the Diocese of Sacramento. “Much of the focus in high school is on what college to attend. I had in my mind that after my years of Catholic education I might be a doctor, lawyer or engineer, some sort of high-paying job,” he recalls. “But I discovered deep in my heart that with all my service in campus ministry, retreats and youth group, I wanted to serve the community and make the world a better place. There was a desire to give more and do more with my entire life.”

Diocesan priests, including Father William Kinane, who had been his pastor at St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Fathers Vic Teneza and Joel Genabia, chaplains at St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School, and Father Brian Atienza, then director of vocations, spent time discussing with Patrick the vocation of the priesthood. His teachers and counselors also offered time for discussion and exploration.

He studied four years at Mount Angel in St. Benedict, Oregon, earning his bachelor’s degree in philosophy and literature in 2012. He continued for one semester of theology studies at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, but then discerned that the priesthood was not his calling. “I thank God that he allowed me to have so many great experiences as a seminarian and to meet other wonderful and amazing men,” he notes. “I am still friends with my classmates who are now priests. Ultimately, with much prayer and discernment, I realized that God was calling me to marriage and to fulfill my vocation as a layperson.”

Patrick now works from home in Vallejo for Cisco as a global technology enablement lead. In October 2018, he became engaged to Ambergrace Castro, a music teacher at Holy Spirit School in Fairfield, who is also a musician and cantor for parish liturgies. They will be married at Holy Spirit Church in June. He is a member and involved in the music ministry at Holy Spirit Parish, while still sometimes attending Mass at St. Catherine of Siena. He and Ambergrace are involved with the young adult ministry at Holy Spirit, which is called AMFM, for “Always Moving Forward Ministry.”

Wherever and whenever opportunities arise, he shares his faith with young adults who are disaffiliated from the church. “Most important, the church needs to be welcoming,” he says. “My invitation to them is, if I can show you a church that is much greater in its love than you have experienced, would you be open to it? Can we offer a welcoming church that doesn’t pressure, is non-judgmental, and speaks the truth in a slower and not-as aggressive way?

“Almost all the people in my life have said yes to God, and I say yes also. I’ve always looked for God in the people who I trusted and who were exemplary models of faith. If it weren’t for my teachers, priests, youth group leaders and colleagues who I could listen to and lean on, then I definitely would not be where I am now and who I am now.”

Catholic Herald Issue