Ryan and Elizabeth Young and their seven children were honored for what they do every day.
Parishioners of St. Martin de Porres in Poughkeepsie, they were named the International Family of the Year at the Knights of Columbus Supreme Convention in Baltimore Aug. 8.
The annual award “showcases the (Knights of Columbus’) belief in the importance of strong and vibrant families as the cornerstone for the stability of society,” according to the Knights of Columbus.
“It is a surprise for us to be honored for this. It is what we do every day,” Elizabeth said of the family’s passion for the faith and sharing it with others. “We are humbled and honored by this. We accept this for our family and the thousands of people who lift up our family. They walk with us day-to-day to bring souls to Christ. It is inspiring to us.”
Ryan and Elizabeth, both 41, met at an ice cream social on the second day of classes at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio in 1995 and are both physician assistants. Elizabeth is also a professor at Marist College.
They are the parents of: Christopher, 18; Trinity, 16; Grace, 12; Mary, 10; Justice, 8; Faith, 2; and Xavier, 10 months. The Pleasant Valley family attends Mass on Saturday evenings, where Ryan or Grace often serve as cantors, and Trinity and Justice are regularly altar servers. Mary is training to be an altar server.
“The Catholic faith is who we are as a family,” said Ryan, a member of the Knights of Columbus Council #7551 at St. Martin de Porres. “It is the core and foundation to everything we do. It’s not what we do. It’s who we are. It’s the breath of our lungs. We can’t live without it.”
The Youngs are involved in community outreach programs such as Food for Families, Habitat for Humanity, Coats for Kids and the parish’s blood drive.
“I hope what we do provides an example and inspires others to join,” said Christopher, who recently joined his father as a Knight. “With all the stuff we do every day, we still have time. I hope people realize they have more time than they think and can contribute that time to their faith.”
Ryan and Elizabeth are best known for starting Camp Veritas in 2008 and the Fearless Retreat Program in 2017 for teenagers. Ryan is the chief executive officer, and Elizabeth is the chief operating officer.
Both retreats have expanded this year as Camp Veritas added a fifth week, which was at Clongowes Wood College in Ireland, and Fearlesss Retreat may have as many as 10 weekend retreats, compared with six last year. Fearless Retreat, a weekend retreat, was added as a continuation of Camp Veritas’ weeklong retreats. The mission of the retreats is to inspire and form Catholic teens into disciples of Jesus Christ.
Camp Veritas’ final retreat for the season will be completed at Camp Lakota in Wurtsboro Aug. 18 with 540 campers and 160 staffers.
Ryan and Elizabeth said they find the camp locations, food and entertainment and games for the teenagers. The Lord guides the teenagers from there.
“With kids able to turn off the noise in their lives, they can hear His voice. For many, it’s the first time they hear Him,” Ryan said.
Christopher said faith and family have guided him through life thus far. He will soon begin his freshman year at the University of Virginia, where he plans to join the Knights of Columbus council on campus.
“It is a very large part of who I am,” Christopher said of his faith. “I know who I am and I’m only 18. I know peers who are going to college to find themselves. I found it.
“I know I have a family who is the same way. They love me and will be there for me. I will never have to worry about massive discord within our family because we are so bonded by our faith.”