For Alaina Laing, 17, a senior at Albany High School, God has always been a driving force in her life. But it was only in the last few years that she really began to take ownership of her faith. She credits her youth minister and choir director, Jason Prigge, for helping her discover her voice — both literally and figuratively.
Laing attends St. Benedict Parish in Avon, where Prigge now serves as faith formation director and music director. Laing’s first leap of faith was joining the parish’s praise choir.
“She was so shy and reserved,” Prigge recalled. “She’s really come a long way. Her confidence is unreal now that she has found who she is in Christ. It’s been a whole identity shift for her, and it was really cool to watch and to be a part of that.”
As Laing became more comfortable in music ministry, she began to expand her involvement in the parish, cantoring at Mass and funerals, joining the youth leadership team, participating in weekly activities and volunteering in the parish every chance she gets.
While her faith continues to blossom, she said the roots have always been strong. Growing up in a Catholic family that includes her parents, Tammy and Gary, her twin sister Leanna and her younger sister Reanna, 13, Alaina was taught that God always comes first — a motto she has fully embraced, almost to a fault, her mom said.
“Our family priority has always been making sure our faith is lived out daily through our prayers and weekend Mass and holy days of obligation, regardless of our other hobbies that we do together,” Tammy Laing said.
“Sometimes Laney wants to volunteer so much at the parish that she doesn’t want to go to work,” Tammy said. “It’s wonderful to see her want to give so much of herself.”
Alaina works part time at Mother of Mercy Campus of Care in Albany as a care attendant.
“I really like the feeling of helping people. I pretty much do that every chance I get. I like being able to put smiles on people’s faces,” she said.
“The residents I work with notice the cross around my neck so they connect their faith with mine,” she added. “Often they will tell me about mission trips they have done, and then I can tell them about the trips I have done. That really showed me a way of connecting with them.”
Alaina’s mission experiences include trips to Duluth with YouthWorks, a Christ-centered organization that partners with communities, as well as trips to Kansas City and the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, and three trips with A Call to Service, a weeklong service experience in the Twin Cities.
“These trips really make us stand back and look at what God has done for us and what we can do for him,” she said.
Alaina’s mom nominated her for The Visitor’s YAYA award. Each month, The Visitor selects a winner, who is featured in print and online. Alaina is this month’s winner.
“Just seeing Alaina’s passion for God in all she does and she is such a caring person who will do anything for anyone,” Tammy Laing said. “I think her passion for God is recognized by many in all she does. Sometimes we feel she is a greater example of Christ than ourselves.”
“[Her] passion for her faith definitely inspires us to continue to live out God’s will,” Tammy added. “It is so wonderful to have her activities daily as constant reminders of what really is important in life.”
Alaina was invited to be part of the Diocesan Youth Council and was involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at her school.
“We got together on Wednesday mornings and talked about a story, read the Bible and talked about our lives and how it pertains to the story. It really makes our day a lot better,” Alaina said of the Fellowship group.
She hopes that other young people might see the transformation she has had and be courageous in finding their own voice.
“Just follow your heart and trust God,” she said. “I wouldn’t be where I am without the help of God to step out of my comfort zone to try something new.”
Age/grade: 17 years old; senior at Albany High School
Parish: St. Benedict Church, Avon
School: I am currently enrolled at St. Cloud Technical and Community College as a post-secondary student.
Book on your bedside: Good News Bible
Movie you could watch over and over: “God’s Not Dead”
Saint who inspires you: St. Teresa of Calcutta
Favorite app: Music
Prayer you love: My family’s nighttime prayer
In your spare time, you can be found (sport, pastime or hobby): At church
A pizza isn’t perfect unless it has: Pepperoni
If you could be a superhero or cartoon character, you would be: Minnie Mouse
Favorite Bible verse or story: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” — Philippians 4:13
You couldn’t drive by which restaurant without stopping: KFC
Your favorite thing about being Catholic is: The community around me. They all give me the love and support that I have needed to get where I am today.
Let your voice be heard
Q: What is one accomplishment you are most proud of?
Laing: I stepped out of my comfort zone and got more involved within the church community. I joined the leadership team and the liturgy committee at our church, the Diocesan Youth Council and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in our school.
I also spend my free time volunteering at my church. I love cantoring weekend Masses and funerals at our church. I also am helping on Wednesdays at my church for religion. Last year I started singing the national anthem at sporting events, and I am also involved in the Youth Chorale of Central Minnesota.
Q: What is one gift you think you bring to the church?
Laing: My voice and my passion for God. I look forward to the weekends I cantor!
Q: What is one gift the church could give you?
Laing: There isn’t anything that the church could give me now that it already hasn’t. The church already gives me faith and hope every day.
Q: If you had the opportunity to talk with Pope Francis, what would you tell him?
Laing: I would tell him about my experiences of going on my mission trips and my involvement within the church.
To nominate a youth or young adult — ages 15-39 — for the YAYA awards, visit
www.stcloudvisitor.org and click on the “YAYA Awards” button to fill out the nomination form. Or call 320-251-3022 to have a form mailed to you.
YAYA nominees should be enthusiastic about their Catholic faith, set a good example for their peers, and be active in their parish.
Each month, a panel from The Visitor will select a winner, who will be featured in the print edition and online.