A Youth Driven Parish
One thing I think I have learned is that almost everything goes better in a parish if it gets ministry to young people right. When ministries oriented to the young are dynamic and attractive and lead them to a committed relationship to Jesus, they have a positive impact all across the board for the parish. I like to call it “trickle up Catholicism”. Families, singles, and even elder members of the parish find new energy from the example of young people fired up by their faith. And so this has got to be a major priority for St. Lawrence O’Toole Parish. And as you know, we have launched three major new initiatives for our young people.
The first is the new Youth Mass Sundays at 5:30 pm. Everyone is welcome to join us for worship, but this Mass is a bit different because it is organized and run by our teens. It features an outstanding teen band of 15 members playing compelling, contagious Praise and Worship music. Greeting you at the doors are teen ushers. There are even teen lectors and teen Eucharistic ministers. They “own” this Mass and we do everything we can to feed their faith and let them express it openly. It is a powerful experience of worship and thanksgiving to God who has given us everything. Be sure to join us one of these Sunday evenings!
We have also started up our Lifeteen high school youth ministry program, which takes place Sunday evenings right after the Youth Mass, from 6:30 to 8:30. Lifeteen is a national youth ministry organization successfully employed in 1200 parishes. Teens have a meal, and then participate in a LifeNight in our newly renovated Teen Club in the Parish Center. The program combines of good fun, solid, healthy friendships, they learn to know Jesus better and grow closer to him. Ed LeStrange and Ann Marie Chalmers have been carrying the teen club for years on their own, but now we have built a team of ten adults to help them develop the Lifeteen program for the good of our kids.
And thirdly, we have launched our ambitious Edge ministry, the middle school youth version of Lifeteen. Starting last week, 165 seventh and eighth graders in religious education gathered to experience it. Edge begins with a large assembly, and by breaking out into small groups for discussion and activities. They will have XLT prayer and social nights on first Fridays of each month, and retreats to help them draw closer to Christ. And they will be engaged in demanding Christian Service Projects that will make a real difference in their lives and the lives of others. More than thirty adults are collaborating with Julie Noce on a core team to lead these teens closer to Christ.
In addition to these new programs, we have a vibrant Religious Education program run by Theresa Scorca, with more than 500 students learning the faith and preparing for their sacraments, supported by dozens of terrific volunteer catechists who share their time and their faith with the children of the parish.
Our excellent CYO program, now directed by Tim Nevins and Chris Feehan, serves well over 100 kids forming virtues of sportsmanship and developing character and strong values.
And our Early Childhood Learning Center, directed by Donna Collelo, serves more than 70 Pre-K and Kindergarten children throughout the school year.
In October, our monthly Family Mass will be starting up once again at the 9:30 Mass. People are coming forward with new initiatives for families and young people, like family movie nights and father-daughter dances and so on… we’ll try to do as much as the good Lord gives us energy to do! These programs reflect our commitment as a parish to young people, who are of course the future of the Church. One of the greatest things we can do is pass on the virtues of faith, hope and love to our kids. Thanks to all who are working so hard on all these great programs. St. Lawrence O’Toole is truly the place for the young and for families.