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Archives Youth take active roles in parish ministries

Sept. 30, 2020

By Darcy Fargo

LOWVILLE – Youth at St. Peter’s Church in Lowville, St. Mary’s in Glenfield and St. Hedwig’s in Houseville are taking active roles in ministry, and those roles are both helping the parish and helping the youth develop their faith.

Deborah Mullin, Faith Formation coordinator for the three faith communities, noted that teenagers from the communities are teaching and assisting with Faith Formation, serving as lectors, altar servers, technology assistants and musicians, and aiding with Vacation Bible Schools.

“I think we underestimate our kids a lot of the time,” Mullin said. “This also applies for spirituality and faith. Kids are amazing, and they are capable of so much more than we give them credit for. They need to know we take them seriously, that we listen to their ideas and that we value their input.”

Friends David Fayle, 15, of Lowville, and Colin Kempney, 15, of Beaver Falls, teach fourth grade catechism with a volunteer adult supervisor. Fayle also plays piano for the church community on occasion, while Kempney has served as a lector.

“It all started with a call for volunteers,” said Kempney. “Now, I’ve taught Faith Formation for two years. Just coming out of Faith Formation, some of our classes were pretty boring. We know how to make them more fun.”

“Colin needed help,” added Fayle. “So, I taught with Colin. Last summer, I helped (the parish music minister) by playing piano. (The parish) needed volunteers. I love playing piano, and I love teaching. It’s an opportunity to support something I really love.”

Noah Comet, 15, of Lowville, said he first started volunteering to fulfill requirements associated with scouting. He’s volunteered as both an altar server and aiding with Faith Formation.

“Keeping the interest of the kids is the hardest part,” he said. “I help with the kindergarteners once in a while. It’s hard to keep the littlest kids entertained and willingly learning.”

Twins Tucker and Ireland Earl, 14, of Lowville, also volunteer together.

“I started altar serving a couple years ago,” Tucker said. “And I helped with Vacation Bible School not long after. I help with the Sunday (Faith Formation) classes now, mostly helping with fifth grade.”

“I first started with Vacation Bible School,” added Ireland. “It was so much fun! I really liked it, so when my mom ended up teaching First Communion, she asked me to help teach that. I also sometimes sing with the choir, and I used to altar serve.”

Ireland Earl said the young students respond well to their youthful teachers.

“Our age can be an advantage,” she said. “It’s easier to connect with the kids. We know what they’re thinking, since we just went through it ourselves. Since it’s not actual school that’s required by the state, I think some kids feel like (Faith Formation) is just one more thing their parents are making them do. We try to make them want to be there.”

“I have two younger siblings,” added Olivia King, 15, of Lowville, who has served as an altar server, lector, choir member and Vacation Bible School volunteer. “I think that also helps me know how to talk to and deal with kids who are younger than me. I know what I should and shouldn’t say.”

“You have to talk to kids, not at them,” added Kempney.

Madison Rhubert, 14, of Lyons Falls, has volunteered as an altar server, choir member, Faith Formation volunteer and has assisted in running the parish PowerPoint, which is being used in place of missals during the pandemic. She also helps train younger altar servers.

“I’ve had to train four other kids, including my sister,” she said. “I had to show them how to put on their robes, and I have to teach them what to do and when. One of the hardest parts can be working with them to get them to be patient. Some get tired of sitting and want to do something.”

While the youth said they feel like adults in some of the ministries may struggle to relate to them, they said they feel their service is appreciated.

“With the choir, I’m not sure they were used to kids being there at first,” said Ireland Earl. “But everyone is friendly.”

“When I play piano, I hear a lot of adults and older people say they like to see the younger people involved,” added Fayle.

In addition to making them feel more engaged with their faith community, the youth said they feel like volunteering, especially teaching, has helped them learn about their faith. Several of the youth said they have really enjoyed learning about the faith from the YouCat, a version of the catechism that’s written for youth.

“We used to give our confirmation students a bible at their confirmation,” said Mullin. “I did a survey with parents and asked how often the teens used the Bibles they received. Needless to say, it wasn’t the response we wanted to hear. Father (James W.) “Jay” (Seymour) asked if we used YouCat. I had never heard of it, so the answer was ‘no.’ I ordered one, and both myself and the confirmation catechists were impressed with it. We now give each student a youth Bible and the YouCat at the beginning of the first year of confirmation preparation.”

“It’s easy to read, and it breaks down the Scripture and teachings really easily,” said Fayle.

The youth feel more informed about their faith after reading the YouCat and participating in the confirmation program, they said.

“Before I started confirmation classes, I didn’t really listen to the readings at church,” said King. “Our confirmation classes required us to write reflections about the readings every week. It’s made me realize how enlightening the readings are. I’ve been listening ever since. And it’s helpful to pass that on. Now, my sister is going to be confirmed. I get to help her through that.”

“I’ve had conversations with kids at school who ask about my religion and why I believe the things I believe,” added Ireland Earl. “It’s been really helpful learning more of the ins and outs. It’s made it easier to respond to some of the misconceptions.”

“There are like seven churches within a mile radius here,” added Kempney. “There are a lot of people who believe differently than we do.”

“People our age seem a lot more open minded,” said King. “We’re trying to become leaders, so we can bridge the gaps, like Pope Francis says.”

Several youth volunteers from St. Peter’s, St. Mary’s and St. Hedwig’s, including Brody Brown, Anna Exford, Lily Exford, Anabella LaPuma and Stephanie Beyer, were unable to participate in the interview.

“I’m hoping as students become confirmed, more and more will want to stay connected to parish life and be a part of educating the younger ones going through Faith Formation classes, (Vacation Bible School), lecturing or choir,” said Mullin. “

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