Scituate teen serves as parish council's youngest member

byWes Cipolla Pilot Staff

Gil Nabstedt speaks to The Pilot at his home parish of St. Mary of the Nativity Church in Scituate. Pilot photo/Wes Cipolla

SCITUATE -- Gil Nabstedt makes it a point to correct his friends when they use the Lord's name in vain.
"Hey," he says to them. "You know, the list of things that God told us not to say is only this long, and maybe it's something that you shouldn't say."
It's in moments like this that Gil, a 17-year-old junior at Cardinal Spellman High School in Brockton and a parishioner at St. Mary of the Nativity Church in his native Scituate, realizes how hard it is to be a devout Catholic teen in a secular world. When interacting with his friends, he tries his best to live his faith in a way that doesn't come off as self-righteous.
"It's definitely something difficult to hold up," he told The Pilot in a Feb. 10 interview, "but in the end, I know that the opinions of my peers don't matter as much as the opinion of God."
Gil is the youngest member of St. Mary's eight-person Parish Advisory Council by two decades. Currently, he and his fellow council members are discussing where in the church to place a donated crucifix. The council also considers what to put in the weekly parish bulletins, along with other day-to-day matters. Before Gil came, the youngest person on the council was his pastor, Father Matthew Conley.
"It's nice to have someone younger than me who's in the room," Father Conley joked to The Pilot in a Feb. 10 interview.

Gil is the youthful face of a parish that is thriving thanks to young people and their families.
"I definitely do appreciate all the opportunities that are given here," he said, "such as the youth group and all the social events, because it does really bring a different life to our parish that I just don't really see in other places."
St. Mary's has a variety of programming for middle and high school students, which Gil described as focusing on "faith, food, and fun." When he talks to his Catholic friends, they're surprised at how much the parish has to offer.
"It's inspiring," he said, "and I know for a fact that has definitely led a lot of kids to come to Mass."
Father Conley called Gil "a young man with conviction, a young man who has a prayer life, a young man who is striving for holiness."
"He kind of brings a light to the people that are around him," he said. "He's articulate. And he's convicted in his faith."
Gil has grown up in Scituate with four siblings. He received his strong faith from his father. To him, being Catholic was just following the Fifth Commandment: "Honor your father and mother."
"When I was younger, it was kind of just the expectation. It was something that we did, and I didn't really think much about it."
As he got older, he started to feel that Mass made him a better person, and thought that those who didn't attend Mass would be happier if they did. His duties in the church "piled on."
Gil is an avid volunteer in the parish's many youth programs and social events, including the Lenten fish fries and St. Patrick's Day corned beef dinners.
"I walk around, I serve the food, I do my best to just interact with as many people as I can," he said.
He has been an altar server since he was in second grade and trains younger kids to do the same. He estimates that he has served in over 400 Masses and is a fixture in the annual procession through Scituate Harbor on the feast of Corpus Christi.
"It's something I take honor in," he said. "Jesus asked us not to be afraid of our faith. I put the robes on, I stand up there, and everyone can see me. I think it makes me feel good, and it makes me kind of appreciate what I have."
During St. Mary's 100th anniversary celebration in 2023, he was an altar server for the Mass celebrated by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley.
"I was in awe the entire time," Gil said.
Even with all his responsibilities, Gil still finds time to be, in Father Conley's words, a "normal" teenager. At Cardinal Spellman, he is on the football, track, and wrestling teams, but doesn't consider himself much of a wrestler. He is part of the student government, Model U.N., and Recycling Club. In his spare time, he likes to go to the gym and hang out with his friends.
Father Conley described Gil's faith as a quiet one. Rather than "show off" his piety, he chooses to be humble and prayerful.
"And I think that's what attracted me to want to bring him to our committee," he said, "because I think that you don't see that very often with high school students. You don't see a lot of high school students being intentional."
"I try to factor in what God says about how we treat each other in what we say and do," Gil said. "So, I try to approach every situation like I'm trying to treat everyone the way I'd like to be treated. I just want people to feel the way about me that Father Matthew just described me."
Gil described Father Conley as a "great leader" and "great mentor," partly due to his relatively young age.
"His youthfulness has definitely made our relationship a lot easier," Gil said. "He's easy to talk to, invites me to a lot of things, sends me texts when I'm running late."
Father Conley became co-pastor of St. Mary's with Father Anthony Cusack in 2020. Both men were in their 30s.
"I don't think there's another parish in the diocese that had two priests in their 30s assigned to the same place," he said. "And so our youth, I think, translated well to the community, which is a youthful community."
After Gil graduates from Cardinal Spellman in 2025, he wants to attend college and serve in the military. His "number-one goal" is to attend West Point. He'd like to continue playing football, too.
"Maybe I'd make a career out of the military," he said, "if I find that it's really fitting to me like that. Or maybe I would leave and take my talents elsewhere."
His advice to teenagers trying to live out their faith is "pray about it."
"That definitely makes it easier when you're facing criticism from your peers," he said.
He has his whole life ahead of him, but at the end, he hopes that he can say to God: "I'm happy, and I tried my hardest with what I was given."