Love and faith blooms in Spartanburg’s Flock15 group
SPARTANBURG—The young adult group at Jesus Our Risen Savior Church is more than a source of fun and fellowship. It has also become a great place for future husbands and wives to meet.
This year, four couples who met through the group, known as Flock15, got married.
Benjamin and Brittany Peacock were the first to tie the knot on Feb. 10. They were followed by Jonathan and Helen Bittner on June 16, Chris and Mary Ippolito on July 21 and Josh and Cailey Kempfer on Sept. 1.
All four couples said the group was instrumental in helping them find their spouse because it allowed them a chance to meet Catholics of the same age who shared their faith and values. The four couples became so close that they all participated in each other’s wedding ceremonies.
“Flock15 was such an important part of our relationship because it was so natural for us to get to know each other through our friends,” Mary Ippolito said. “We each wanted friends who shared our faith, supported us and were always up for fun adventures and events, and we found all that through this group.”
Flock15 was started in November 2015 by Adorno Father Giovannie Nunez, who was parochial vicar at the parish at the time and wanted a program for young adults. The group’s name comes from the image of a flock of believers led by Christ the shepherd, combined with the year 2015.
Father Nunez is now pastor at St. Anne and St. Jude Parish in Sumter, but he has kept in touch with members of Flock15 and is happy that the group is flourishing.
Jonathan Bittner is one of the founders and leaders. He and his wife Helen said the group offers young adults a crucial support network in a part of the state where Catholics are the minority.
“It’s important to have these people around you to help you through life events,” Mrs. Bittner said. “You know that the members are in your corner, and you can trust and count on them.”
Members of Flock15 also socialize together. The Bittners are close friends with the Peacocks, and Mrs. Peacock and Mrs. Bittner teach at the same elementary school.
Benjamin Peacock, who is an officer with the Spartanburg Police Department, said shared values helped him connect with his future wife. Mrs. Peacock said she always hoped to meet her future husband through church, and the group meetings made the whole process much easier.
Two of the couples had to deal with long-distance relationships in their journey to the altar. Chris and Mary Ippolito started dating in October 2016, but Mr. Ippolito moved back to his home state of Ohio for work in December of that year. He returned to South Carolina in August 2017 and proposed in December. Mrs. Ippolito said Flock15 members offered the couple a lot of support during their months apart.
“Because of the love and support our friends in the group gave us throughout our relationship, we asked all the other couples to be part of our bridal party,” she said.
Josh Kempfer, who is a chemical engineer, was working at a job where he had to move every eight months. He met his wife at a Flock15 meeting shortly after the group started, and the two dated for six months before he was transferred to Michigan.
“We kept our relationship alive by talking every day, doing Skype almost every other day, visiting when possible,” he said.
That went on for almost two years until he was transferred to Mississippi and proposed in March of this year.
Mrs. Kempfer, who is from Spartanburg and grew up at Jesus Our Risen Savior, said Flock15 helped the couple keep their faith strong and deal with the long period of separation.
“It took a lot of prayer to get through it all,” she said. “It was stressful, but being apart made us stronger as a couple and brought us closer to God.”
The Kempfers have since moved to Mississippi but keep in touch with the young adult group regularly. Members try to connect on Skype each week to pray a rosary together.
Flock15 meets every Tuesday for a variety of activities and is open to young adults ages 18-35. For more information about the group, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo provided: Jonathan and Helen Bittner (center) stand at their wedding surrounded by other couples who were also married this year and are members of Flock15, the young adult group at Jesus Our Risen Savior Church in Spartanburg.