Anna Johnson lives and works in Seattle, Washington as Team Leader for Maryknoll’s Young Adult Empowerment team, and she loves exploring the wisdom young adults have to bring to the teachings of and ways of living faith. Anna holds a degree in Peace Studies and Political Science from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, and graduated with a deep love for the non-violent teachings and lived social justice witness of Jesus. After college, she lived as an Overseas Lay Missioner with the Holy Cross in Bugembe, Uganda learning from and teaching Internally Displaced Communities. She grew up with a wild love of the outdoors, and on any given weekend you can find her camping, kayaking, hiking with friends or her partner, Corbin, and their dog, Tilly.
Barbara Escobar was born and raised in sunny Los Angeles, CA to immigrant parents from El Salvador. Her love of reading and writing led her to pursue a B.A. in English at Mount Saint Mary’s University, Los Angeles, and it was there that she discovered her love of ministry and liturgy serving as a Campus Minister. It was that combined love of reading and ministry that spurred her onto the next adventure: moving to South Bend, IN to receive her M.T.S. (with an emphasis in Liturgy) from the University of Notre Dame. From there, Barbara has lived in different states operating in various roles in both parochial and academic spheres. In this chapter of her life, she is currently serving alongside her awesome Maryknoll team as a Mission Educator-Promoter in Chicago. She hopes to encourage young adults to create safe spaces for authentic dialogue and conversion, spaces where their voices can be heard, and where the journey for justice (through discussion, prayer, and action) plays an integral part in their lives. During her downtime, Barbara loves to read (duh!), box, go out with friends, and hang out with her two cats, Valkyrie and Theodora.
Brenda Noriega was born and raised in Guanajuato, Mexico. She came to the United States at the age of 17 leaving everything she knew behind and embracing the United States as her new home. Brenda works with young adults and the Hispanic/Latino community. She serves the entire Southern California region. She has been serving God’s people and influencing her community from an early age at the parish and diocesan level. Brenda earned a master’s degree in pastoral ministries from the University of Santa Clara. Brenda represents Catholic young people in the United States at the Youth Consultative Body for the Dicastery of Laity and Family Life in Rome. Brenda’s passion is to empower young people, accompanying them to become who God created them to be as missionary disciples practicing their Christian values in their daily life. She believes in holistic discipleship and the importance of self-care as part of spirituality. Her favorite way to be nourished by God is through Scripture, contemplation of the Blessed Sacrament, nature, and good food.
Lefteris Sitaras is the Administrative Assistant at the Seattle Maryknoll office and goes by Lefty. He was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, lived in Athens, Greece and currently resides in Seattle, Washington. He holds a bachelors in Philosophy and spent over 25 years working with youth and young adult ministries in the Greek Orthodox Church. He is most excited about helping the YAE community grow and to be a positive experience for young adults. Lefty, along with his son and daughter, enjoy playing, repairing and collecting pinball and arcade games, as well as caring for “Snake” their bearded dragon.
Stephanie Luna, whose name preference is Luna, is a native Californian. Her childhood was mostly spent throughout the Los Angeles area and has settled in Northern CA. Luna is a first-generation college graduate from California State University, East Bay with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications. She completed two volunteer years, one with the Franciscan Community Volunteers in St. Cloud, MN, and another with San Francisco AmeriCorps. She was able to surround herself by loving and fearless children. As a Mission Educator- Promoter for the San Francisco Bay Area, Luna hopes to create a safe space for young adults to build community and to help individuals discover their authentic selves. In her spare time, Luna enjoys spending time in her garden. Her urban farmer hero is Ron Finley, and she hopes to become a gangsta gardener herself.
Ray Almanza is the son of immigrant parents from Chihuahua, Mexico. He was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. Ray serves the region of Southern California and works with young adults and Hispanic ministry communities. Ray is passionate about the prophetic tradition of listening to the voice of God emanating from the margins which entails the work of liberation, justice, healing and building the kin-dom. He has a Master’s degree in Philosophy and is currently completing a second Master’s degree in Pastoral Theology, both from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California. Ray enjoys cycling outdoors and reading–especially classics! He loves to travel with his wife Elizabeth and their two children Siena Rose (7) and Solomon Rey (4). It is a spiritual experience that is reminiscent of the earthly pilgrimage we are all on as church.
Walter Hidalgo was born and raised in the south side of Providence, Rhode Island to immigrant parents from Guatemala. He holds a PhD in ministry from New York Theological Seminary where his focus was on the intersectionality between socio-spiritual movements and Hip-hop culture. As a Mission Educator Promoter that’s based out of New York, his focus is primarily on helping to develop our free resources for teachers and catechists while accompanying young adults into becoming missionary disciples. In addition to his ministerial work, Walter enjoys traveling, working out, reading, sushi and spending time with his amazing daughter!