A busy teen on the path with Jesus

By Marybeth Hicks | Photography by Tom Gennara

Shannon Wohlfert’s senior year in high school is busy with the usual things. She’s a member of the varsity volleyball team at Pewamo-Westphalia High School. She also plays French horn in the marching band and coordinates a peer counseling group at school called PLANK. She belongs to the National Honor Society. She participates in 4-H and works part-time at the local Subway sandwich shop. She was even named the high school’s homecoming queen.

It’s a typical teenager’s life, with one notable exception.

Shannon also defines herself a disciple of Jesus Christ. Every few weeks, she and her discipleship group meet to pray, share, study and encourage each other in their walks with Jesus. It’s not a program organized by their parish, St. Mary’s in Westphalia. Nor is it a required part of high school religious education.

“It’s just something we do to help one another to really stay on that path with Jesus,” Shannon says.

“Our group is called Emmaus, based on the story of the disciples walking with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. We focus on our walk with him. We get together  to talk about all the things that are thrown at you in high school – drinking, the sexual culture, even how to shop and dress modestly – and the group helps to keep you on track and avoid those things that could cause you to stumble.”

The group often gathers on Friday evenings for adoration, as well. “It’s a great way to spend a Friday night with friends because we have that bond,” she explains.

Shannon admits she’s known as a “good girl” at school, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to avoid the pressures that face every high-schooler. “There really is a lot of pressure to start drinking in high school,” she says. “But in our group we remind each other that those expectations don’t have to define our actions.”

The daughter of Dave and Sheri Wohlfert, Shannon credits her parents with setting a strong example of how to live out her faith, especially her mom, a Catholic speaker and humorist. “I love my early morning prayer time, sitting on the porch drinking coffee and just spending time in prayer. That’s something my mom has always done and she showed me how inviting that is.”

The Emmaus group is getting older and moving on. Three of the original members now are in college, and this year the remaining girls invited a new member to join them, bringing their membership to five. “Talking to the girls who are in college now, I can see how our group helps prepare you for what is to come,” Shannon says.

A four-time attendee of youth conferences at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, and also a participant in the youth leadership development program there, Shannon plans to attend the university after graduating from high school to study nursing.

For now, Shannon continues to define herself as a disciple; because of this, her faith is evident to others. “It’s easy at this age for some kids to feel lost. My job every day is to just be a light. If I’m really joyful and live my faith each day, people will see that. And that’s really the best way I can show Jesus to others.”