June 1-7, 2006
Raising them up
By Deacon Tom Picciano/ SUN contributing writer
Southern Region honors youth with special Mass and dinner
Endicott — Forty-four students from 22 parishes were honored in the Celebration of Youth at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish. It’s the tenth time the Catholic Youth Organization, Directors of Religious Education and Youth Ministers recognized the students’ faith commitment and involvement in parish, school and community.
Father John Putano, the Southern Region Vicar, was the main celebrant at the Mass held on May 19.
Father Putano borrowed from Catholic singer-composer Jesse Manibusan to greet the audience.
“God is good,” Father Putano said. They responded, “All the time.” He said “All the time.” And they answered, ”God is good.” Father Putano focused on the Gospel reading from John during his homily. “We are called to be a people who believe in a loving God,” he said.
“The love of God has touched our hearts in some way, to the love of our parents and families, to the example of teachers, to the witness Christian faith by catechists, deacons, religious, priests, you have experienced God’s love and responded by being of service to your parish,” Father Putano said. “You are lectors, Eucharist ministers, ushers, cantors, song leaders, choir members, religious education teachers or assistants. You visit those who are homebound, those in nursing homes. You are part of a youth group, a CYO sports program.
“What a wonderful witness to our community. That is why we celebrate this event. Yes, to honor you and all young people. And also to acknowledge how important your witness is, how it enriches the faith community. “Thank you for the ways you have shown God’s love. Thank for your lives of services to others. Thank you for giving back a portion of what God has given to you.” Father Putano said. “We often hear that you are the future of the church. But you are also the church of today. Thank you for doing your part building God’s kingdom of peace and love in this world.”
Each of the students was called by name and by parish and they encircled the altar to receive certificates and gifts. Later, they listened to a letter from Bishop Thomas Costello, who couldn’t be at the celebration:
“Like it or not, you are now a model. A witness to who and what is a young Catholic person. You do it best by example. What you do speaks so loudly that no one hears what you say. St. Francis of Assisi puts it so well. Tell the Good News, but use words only if necessary. So then I exhort you, continue to be outstanding Catholic young persons that you have already become.”
At a dinner that followed, there were smiles all around, among students, parents, and pastors. “I think it’s something really special,” said Tara McGrath of Blessed Sacrament Church in Johnson City. McGrath is an altar server, lector, and youth representative on the parish council. As a service project, she gathered items to distribute to soldiers overseas. “My values and my morals are based around my faith. And it’s just what I live by,” she said.
“I didn’t think I did anything out of the ordinary. I lector, I read the readings and sometimes if they need me, I’m an altar server. I contribute like everyone else does,” said Nicholas Ponterio of St. Rita’s Parish in Chenango Forks. Fellow St. Rita’s parishioner Dallas Hogan said the honor felt “pretty good.” The 11th grader is also an altar server and plans to be a sponsor for his brother’s confirmation. He is seeking a “better understanding” of the world around him in his faith and tries to be closer to God through prayer.
Christina Tucci of St. John the Evangelist in Binghamton said she was “pretty excited” that she was chosen for the honor. She’s a server every Sunday at Mass. “I feel good to be honored for having served God and his church,” said Malachi Clark, also of St. John’s. He’s an altar server for daily Mass and a lector.
Ryan Cook finds it “a great honor to be recognized by the church.” Cook, who was recently confirmed at St. Thomas Parish in Binghamton, is an altar server, Eucharistic minister and helps with the parish Octoberfest. His faith is important to him, including daily prayer.”It helps me get through a lot of stuff. I rely on it.” “Both my wife and I are very proud,” said his father, Randy Cook, “We both pray that he lives up to all the ideals and expectations. “
Patrick Barrett of St. Joseph’s in Endicott said he’s “proud to be part of it.”
In addition to being honored in the Celebration of Youth, Barrett sang with the choir for the Mass. At his parish, he sings, plays his trumpet, is a Eucharistic minister and was an altar server. The Maine-Endwell senior is committed to his faith, which he said is “very strong.”
“[It] brings out a lot of good qualities in every person and it shows the characteristics that one individual needs.” “This is a nice evening,” said Patrick’s father, Charles, “A nice way to celebrate the success of the youth of our faith, the future of our faith. A job well done.”