Summertime fun

Aug. 31-Sept. 6,06
Summertime fun
By Connie Cissell/ SUN editor
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Our Lady of the Rosary offers fun, trips and fellowship

Summertime at some parishes means that teens are absent and their laughter and vibrant contribution waits until fall and the beginning of the religious education curriculum. At Our Lady of the Rosary in New Hartford the young people spend the summer gathering at the church and also at places like the shrine at Auriesville, Darien Lake and area nursing homes.

The Summer Youth Ministry Program at the parish celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. Parish Youth Minister Dick Vetere has brought together a team consisting of Kelly Colangelo and Jim LaPaglia, two college students home for the summer, and the pastor, Father Felix Colosimo, to make up an effective — and fun — leadership team. This summer’s calendar included teen nights at the parish, road trips to The Great Escape, bumper boats, batting cages, a scavenger hunt and more.

The group of 20 to 30 teenagers, from seventh graders to high school seniors, met at the church each Sunday night over the summer for open recreation, speakers, group activities, prayer services, and, of course, food. Sometimes they tied in service projects with the events they attended one evening per week besides the Sunday evening get-togethers. A cake decorating night was followed the next evening by delivery of the cakes to St. Luke’s Nursing Home where the young people served the residents. A highlight of the summer was the parish picnic/summer program anniversary on Aug. 13.

At the Mass that day, Vetere spoke about the anniversary and of the group’s beginnings. He explained that a college student 10 years ago, Joe Tamer, came to him with a paper he had written for one of his classes. Tamer said that young Catholics were looking for acceptance and leadership and he said that parishes should be a place of community helping young people connect their faith with everyday life. Vetere took the advice to heart and developed the first summer program with Tamer’s help. Tamer was at the anniversary celebration with his wife and three children. Early staff also included a friend of Tamer, Jen Pett who served as the first director of the summer program.

Jessica Ruggiero is about to enter eighth grade in Whitesboro, and she is adamant about her love of the summer program, especially the college students. “They make you feel so welcome and they know how we feel.” Jessica also likes the fact that Father Colosimo comes to the teen night events at the parish. “Father Felix comes on teen night,” she said. “He eats and talks to us and has a conversation with everyone.”

Meghan Kane and her brother, Robert, both attended the youth program this summer and one of the benefits they have enjoyed is making new friends. Teens from five different school districts take part in the summer youth program. “I probably wouldn’t have gone to Auriesville and I wouldn’t have had other experiences if I hadn’t been in the summer program,” Meghan said. “I go every week and I really like it. Kelly and Jim understand us. They just got out of school themselves.”

Colangelo and LaPaglia were the bearers of program this time around. Colangelo attends Niagara University and said coming back to help with the youth at Our Lady of the Rosary is something she loves doing year round. “A lot of teens feel at home here,” Colangelo said. “The parishioners are so warm and welcoming.” Her home parish is St. John the Baptist in Rome where she was involved in the LIFE TEEN program. Colangelo came to Vetere’s program via an Oneida County internship. It is her second year for the summer program. “The program solidifies what I want to do. I know I want to work with teenagers,” Colangelo said. “I love college but I love my job and I look forward to coming back so much.” LaPaglia also came through the county program. He is a parishioner of St. Peter’s in Utica and a student at Oswego State. “They start right after college in late May,” Vetere explained. “We write up the summer program schedule and in June we work on marketing the program.”

One of the events that the entire parish was invited to was a family drive-in movie night. A movie screen was put up at the parish and families were invited to attend. Vetere said he asked for some help in feeding the teens over the course of the summer. He asked for four people to adopt a youth night meal and 21 people came forward. In thanking parishioners for their support, Vetere said, “Father Felix and I are constantly overwhelmed by your generosity. I thank you personally. Please know how much our young people appreciate you.”

Sarah Ryan is almost 13 and said she enjoys attending the summer events. “We have a lot of fun but we still learn a lot about being Catholic.”

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