Young hearts beat for inner city

Garfield missionary Sabrina Swindergal speaks with teens in Garfield last winter.

Vagabond Missions began its inner city ministry to Pittsburgh youth five years ago with two missionaries in the city’s Garfield neighborhood. Today, thanks to strong support and prayers, 14 staffers serve at four mission sites, and Pittsburgh has become the organization’s national headquarters.

“We are expanding into the Hill District, learning the area and meeting people at St. Benedict the Moor Parish,” said Shannon Keating, the Pittsburgh area director who arrived in 2017 working as a missionary in Sharpsburg. Last year Vagabond Missions started serving Pittsburgh’s Allentown neighborhood.

The ministry will be featured on Sunday’s edition of the radio program Catholic Education Plus.

The young missionaries connect with teens who have experienced neglect, violence and a broken family life. Few have a relationship with God.

The missionaries build friendships with young people through school events, in city parks, on basketball courts, and other secular settings. Teens come to outreach nights in youth centers, to Bible studies, discipleship groups, and RCIA, which is called “Jesus Class.”

The youths have responded to Jesus by showing empathy to those even less fortunate than themselves. Teens in Sharpsburg have been writing notes of encouragement to homeless men in Bloomfield. They learned about the men from volunteer Nick Wytiaz, who recently entered St. Paul Seminary.

The pandemic has hardly slowed the missionaries. Their Meals & Hope virtual gala in early May raised much-needed funds while missionaries delivered more than 1,000 free meals to needy families.

“These are young hearts that are beating for the inner city,” Keating said.

The ministry also has mission sites in Steubenville, OH, Greenville, NC, and Wichita, KS. To learn more, visit

Catholic Education Plus airs Sunday morning at 6:30.  A podcast will be available later at: