Meet the St. Thomas the Apostle Youth Ministry Core Team! Every person on this team is absolutely committed to leading our youth into deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. Many have extensive experience and training in youth ministry but every single one loves and cares for the youth in our Church and the community at large!



His lovely wife of 31 years is Anne Marie. She is a certified LPC Clinical Therapist working in the mental health field. They have two children: Ryan and Christen.

Ed was Ordained a Roman Catholic Deacon for the Diocese of Tucson in June 2003. Bishop Gerald Kicanas officially assigned Deacon Ed to St Thomas at that time. He serves as Pastoral Associate and as Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministries. Areas of ministry also include Sacramental Duties, Pastoral Counseling, Spiritual Direction, Death Row Ministry, and is a guest speaker from time to time at numerous organizations.

Deacon Ed is a former Grand Knight of KofC, a Business Corporate Executive (President & COO), and owned and operated a business for 17 years.



As a hard working, multi-talented member of our CORE, Eric has been a wonderful addition since 2012. He is a music minister utilized throughout the Dioceses of Tucson and Phoenix. Eric is a reliable audio-visual technician during our Life Teen nights as well as a key leader in planning Life Nights. His down-to-earth personality helps teens relate to him in many of the challenging topics we discuss.

Eric is a student at the University of Arizona hoping to graduate in 2017 with a degree in German Studies and Music. He would love to work in music when he graduates and continue to inspire others through church ministry, especially youth ministry.

Mabel Rivera

If you've heard the beautiful voice singing at the 5pm Teen Mass, then you've heard Mabel. She's a 4th grade teacher at Immaculate Heart, and passionately loves her job. She could go on for days and days telling you about their many projects (and she will). Beyond music ministry, she's also a Core Member for Life Teen.

Mabel was involved in youth ministry as a teen and has loved her return as a Core Member. She loves to see the growth that teens have in their relationships with God. Her personal relationship with God has always been important and seeing the continuous searching and questioning that teens do in the development of their own relationships is a huge blessing for her.


Deidra is known for her craft abilities, loving to dress up, and planning parties. Other hobbies include traveling, scuba diving, and watching anime. She was raised in Phoenix as a Baptist and converted to Catholicism after moving to Tucson to go to the University of Arizona. 2012 was a big year for her! She not only graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing, but also started volunteering with the Lifeteen program at St. Thomas the Apostle.

Currently, she works at St. Joseph's Hospital in their ICU. Deidra, more often than not, plays the role of volunteer nurse at many Life Teen functions.

Ryan Bequette

One of our longest volunteering Core (and probably one of the most well remembered) is Ryan. But most teens know him as Biscuit. He is the guy who has the dry sense of humor which gets all the teens laughing. He is all about community and inclusiveness. Ryan went through the St. Thomas the Apostle teen program himself. He is an example of growth and life in our parish.

Today, he is the Sacristan for the 5pm Mass (and he's always looking for teens interested in getting involved with Mass!). Currently, Ryan is a manager at FedEx and is looking to applying his degree in Criminal Justice soon as a police officer.

Sam Jimenez

Known as Sam around St. Thomas the Apostle parish, he is currently in search of nickname due to the plethora of Sams(plural) that he knows. He is a Core member on the Life Teen and the Chosen Confirmation Prep youth programs and he also is in the Life Teen band where he plays the bass. In the a.m. he goes to Pima Community College(PCC) and is transferring to the U of A next year for his Bachelors Degree in Psychology and Linguistics. He also works at PCC as a Math, Spanish, Writing, and Reading tutor. 

Sam just recently joined the core team in fall of 2015. However, he expresses interest and perhaps a vocation in youth ministry. He enjoys reading classic literature (and comic books), drawing, playing as many musical instruments as he can, all things athletic, health and nutrition, and outdoor adventures.



Bernadette is a Studio Art major at the University of Arizona who hopes to someday enter the world of children's book illustration or animated film development. She grew up with her four younger brothers in Michigan (where there's this mysterious white stuff called snow) and was homeschooled all the way through high school, which she considers to be one of the greatest blessings of her life.

Besides being an artist, she has a great passion for reading (particularly retold fairy tales), music, and the Eucharist. When not volunteering on CORE, you can find her wracking her brain for yet another creative solution to an art project, laughing at bad puns, singing at Mass, watching Doctor Who, or journaling late at night with cappuccino in hand.

Bianca Kao

Bianca (who will also respond to "B", "Bianks", or even "Beyonce") is a recent graduate from the University of Arizona. Having obtained a degree in Neuroscience, she hopes to one day attend medical school. During her gap year, she is currently working and volunteering at various places such as ArtWorks, an art center for adults with intellectual disabilities, and Haven Health, a rehabilitation and nursing home for older adults. During her free time, she enjoys drawing, playing the guitar, and long, romantic walks to the fridge. 

Bianca was new to St. Thomas the Apostle when she moved to Tucson during her high school years. She immediately fell in love with Life Teen, which helped her to not only develop and nurture her faith, but to also find a welcoming community of friends and mentors. Now being a part of the Core Team, she hopes to share the same (if not better!) experience with young adults.

Ross Helland

Ross is the LifeTeen Music Coordinator at Saint Thomas the Apostle. During the week, he is the band and orchestra director at Salpointe Catholic High School. He is married to his beautiful wife Jennifer and has two cats and a dog. 

Ross has been involved in ministry for about 10 years, mostly as a worship leader and speaker. He leads worship for retreats for parishes all around the Diocese of Tucson. Ross loves all things football, especially the Patriots and University of Arizona Wildcats.

Claire Hernandez

Claire is a Physiology major at the University of Arizona, with the hope of becoming a physical therapist after college. She was born in California and grew up in Tucson, where she graduated from Ironwood Ridge High School. In high school she found a personal relationship with Christ through Life Teen and Steubenville Conferences. She recently joined the STAP CORE team to help other teens encounter Christ and the unconditional love He has for them. 

In her free time Claire loves to do anything outdoors, go to the gym, volunteer, and procrastinate her homework by spending time with friends and family. She loves to sing at church and can be found singing as loud as she can around her house with her two siblings. Her goals are to one day travel to all 50 states, own a dog, and go on a mission trip to South America.


Samantha is a Speech Language and Hearing Sciences and Special Education double major at the University of Arizona, hoping to one day work alongside of traumatic brain injury patients who lost their speech. She was brand new to Tucson when she started her college career and took a year trying to find her new home before she settled in with STAP.  Going through Life Teen herself, Samantha found hope and strength through Christ and the church and wants to help guide other teens to find and grow in their relationships with Christ as well.

She spends a lot of her time at the UA campus, but when she finds time to herself, Samantha loves to keep exploring Tucson.  There is still so much of it she has not seen.  Samantha and her family are huge travel bugs and she been to 23 countries and/or territories outside of the U.S. and she doesn’t intend to slow down her travels any time soon



Vanessa is a psychology major at the university of Arizona, hoping to go to medical school to become a pediatric surgeon. She was born in Tucson, Arizona and graduated from Catalina Foothills High School. In high school, she went through the Life Teen program to get confirmed and found a true love for not only the program but for her faith itself. She hopes to pass along her love for Christ to the teens coming through. In her free time, Vanessa loves doing anything active, like playing sports or being outdoors, photography, and baking. She also enjoys a lazy day watching Netflix. She coaches volleyball for The Gregory school and Club Cactus juniors. She's loud, outgoing and super competitive. Vanessa has a big Italian family who she is always spending time with, mostly in the kitchen. Carpe Diem! 

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Janet Agnus

Janet is new to St. Thomas the Apostle, but not youth ministry. Chris, her better half, and Janet have been married for 4 years (5 years in November) and have one daughter. Her family just moved from Kentucky to the Great State of Arizona and couldn’t be more excited. Born and raised in Tempe (you know... the other team with gold and maroon), she actively participated in her parish’s youth ministry during high school. She loved attending Sunday night Mass with her friends, singing in the youth choir, hanging out for youth nights, plus the occasional 'after youth night' dinner at Denny’s (so posh) and of course all the great “off campus” activities like retreats, service projects, and other shenanigans. Some of her best friendships in high school were made in youth ministry.

Janet loves to be silly and laugh, which is good because her 18-month old daughter loves to do those things too. She also loves to read, practice yoga, hike, play with the dog, paint, draw, cook yummy things for her family (and the occasional retreat), and bake treats for friends to eat. Most of all, Janet lives her life with joy and purpose because God has blessed her abundantly and she knows that she can honor and praise Him by the way she lives.

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Rachel bowman

Rachel is studying elementary education at the University of Arizona. Rachel is hoping to become a teacher when she graduates, however she is unsure on where exactly she would like to teach. Rachel grew up in an Air Force family with three older brothers. She loves spending time with them and her many cousins. Rachel has spent most of her life living in Tucson, where she graduated from Salpointe Catholic High School in 2015. At Salpointe, Rachel really grew her love for Christ as a Kairos leader. She is hoping to grow in her faith and relationship with God even more by working with the teens. In her spare time, Rachel coaches girl’s lacrosse up in Oro Valley. Rachel is extremely passionate about sharing her love for the sport and is hoping that one day, lacrosse becomes a favorite sport for young girls as it did for her. Rachel also spends a lot of time at her part time job as a Hostess at the local restaurant Trattoria Pina. When you can’t find Rachel on the lacrosse field, at school or at work she is most likely at Target where she goes about twice a week. Along with her obsession with Target, Rachel also enjoys laying in bed watching Netflix, jamming out in her car to High School Musical and the Cheetah Girls and spending time with her best friends.


Matthew Slania

Matt grew up in Tucson and attended Salpointe Catholic High School where he was Drum Major and Kairos Leader. Matt was also a part of Boy Scout Troop 007 (the troop here at St. Thomas) where he would go on to become an Eagle Scout. Later, Matt attended Gonzaga University where he was a part of the Jazz and Pep band at basketball games. Matt is now a tax associate at R&A CPAs and working on his CPA license.

Matt recently joined the CORE Team here at St. Thomas the Apostle and started his journey in Youth Ministry.  Matt enjoys Football (both College and NFL where you will see him sporting his Packers apparel), Baseball and College Basketball (Go Zags!).