When first meeting Sam (Samantha) Baird and Natalie Miller, one would think they had been friends their entire lives. A person could even believe they were sisters! It's a shock to learn they have only known each other since June of 2014. They officially met at the first CYAS spiritual retreat held at that time, though their mothers had worked together for 15 years, trying to convince their daughters to get together. Sam admits that both families all went to a movie once, but she can't remember what happened and neither can Natalie. It was the CYAS retreat that finally introduced them to each other and created a bond that is truly unbreakable between them. Watching Sam and Natalie interact now, their closeness is obvious. Throughout their interview, they finished each other's sentences, answered each other's questions, always joking back and forth. Clearly, God must always have intended them to be friends.
Before the CYAS retreat, Sam and Natalie both confess they weren't at the best place in their lives. Natalie said the year before the retreat was consumed by her work, and she had no life outside of it. Sam was finishing school, working three different jobs, and trying to spend time with her family. Neither one had any sort of social life. They were not very interested in attending the CYAS retreat; it took their mothers' prodding to get them to go. Sam and Natalie both expected to encounter preformed social cliques at the retreat. To their surprise, the retreat was very different--they met each other and several new people all of them new to the CYAS community as well. All the retreat participants were seeking community and fellowship. Sam and Natalie remarked on how genuine everyone was and how refreshing it was to be in a Catholic environment. Sam added that in her other friendships religion was usually swept under the rug to avoid awkwardness. It was exciting to talk openly and honestly about her faith with people of similar minds.
After the CYAS retreat, Sam and Natalie were driven to participate more in the CYAS community. Natalie took the initiative of collecting phone numbers and emails on the retreat, so everyone could keep in contact afterwards. Playing various games at the retreat led Natalie to organize game nights. Sam and Natalie eventually combined efforts to have a game night at least once a month. Both are also involved in CYAS sports leagues--starting with Ultimate Frisbee. Natalie was hesitant at first, but Sam was determined she was going to play. Both of them attend small group meetings as well, which are basically times to reflect and concentrate on faith and scripture.
CYAS helps young adults emerge from a comfort bubble, after high school or college graduation, where community is easily accessible. After leaving that bubble of reliable community support, Sam and Natalie are concerned that many people lose their faith lives. In fact, recent studies have shown that they are right, estimates say that nearly 79% of young adults leave Catholicism to become “unaffiliated” by age 23 according to Sherry Weddell’s research in her book Forming Intentional Disciples. CYAS provides a strong support system and helps create lasting friendships that continue to grow as young adults find their way through life. Sam and Natalie are a perfect example of such a friendships fostered by CYAS.
When asked about their future goals for CYAS, Natalie says she intends to be a "permanent leech." She loves being involved in every event CYAS sponsors and plans to stay involved even when she might not be considered a "young adult." Sam has joined the marketing committee and wants CYAS to grow. She has a passion for networking and reaching out to people. These passions make her a great advocate for CYAS and its mission of faith-based community. Both Sam and Natalie strongly believe in CYAS and its ministry. "There are always new people in the group," Sam declares. They want to encourage anyone hesitant about getting involved to check it out anyway.