Growing in faith

Faith Formation programs across the diocese are helping students to better know, live and share their faith. Here’s a look at just a few of the many activities taking place, and be sure to check out the full gallery of photos!

The Sun thanks Cathy Cornue, director of the Office of Faith Formation, and the parish directors of Faith Formation, catechetical leaders and staff who shared their stories.


The Faith Formation program at the Church of the Holy Family in Endwell has a dynamic and engaging format. Each week, the students begin with group prayer and rotate through four sessions focusing on Bible Stories; Saints/Sacraments; Liturgy, Art & Music; and Catholic Social Teaching, Morality & Service. A common theme or lesson is explored within each of these contexts, giving the students a well-rounded perspective on that topic. The students and catechists are extremely enthusiastic about this format.

As part of the weekly service lesson, the students have sewn pillowcase dresses and bandana shorts for children as part of the Health for Haiti program. They have also hosted a Pancake Breakfast and Halloween Trunks of Treats party to benefit this program.

The annual Veteran’s Day Luncheon, sponsored by Faith Formation, is always a special event for the community. Students serve the food, sing for the guests and really enjoy visiting with them.

Additionally, our Faith Formation students participate in the Make-a-Wish Walk and work with athletes in several events during the Special Olympics. Both events are very enriching and enjoyable for the students.
   — Loretta Huty, Catechetical Leader; Mary Strojny, Youth Minister    
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On Oct. 25, Sacred Heart Basilica in Syracuse began its fourth year of offering a special monthly time of prayer for children and youth during “Adoration for Children.” Normally scheduled on the last Sunday of the month at 2 p.m. at the Basilica, this prayer time is led by Father Andrew Baranski, rector, or Father Stanislaw Kardas, parochial vicar. The children process into the church holding battery-operated candles, come into the sanctuary and kneel and sit before Our Lord with the monstrance placed on the sacrificial altar. There is time for song, followed by an introduction as to why we are present and who is present with us and a reflection by the priest on a particular theme for the month. A decade of the rosary is prayed with the children leading, and intercessions are offered by the priest and children. Benediction follows and a closing hymn and recessional conclude the time of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. (Normally there is a reception that follows for families to share refreshments and friendship, however, the reception time will resume with the completion of the the church hall renovation project.) All families are welcome to join us at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
   — Sister Melanie Jaworski, Director of Faith Formation
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The students at St. John the Baptist/Holy Trinity Parish in Syracuse have made a prayer table where they come together to pray for those in need and for the special intentions of loved ones. They trace their hand on construction paper, cut out the hand and place it on the table, praying that the hand of God touches the person they are praying for. They also know that that person is in God’s hands. Students love this so much that they are asking, on their own, to make hands and ask for the other students to come to the prayer table and pray!
— Catherine Mackey, Catechetical Leader
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The Faith Formation students at St. Theresa’s Church in New Berlin participated in collecting more than $700 for the Annual CROP Walk in October and helped community members rake leaves, trim hedges and pack away summer items for the winter on Make A Difference Day.

In February, Confirmation students will bake, prepare and deliver over 150 lasagna dinners to parish and community members, as part of Super Bowl Sunday Lasagna Dinner. Students also participate annually in April on the Adopt a Highway- Route 8 Team.
— Sue Nogaret, Catechetical Leader
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The parish of Saints John and Andrew in Binghamton is excited to host an upcoming Living Nativity Event on Dec. 20. Faith Formation and Youth Ministry have collaborated since early summer to build a Nativity and bring to the parish one camel, two sheep, one goat, and two donkeys from Animal Adventure, a local park that houses exotic animals. (Why two donkeys? They are friends and do not like to be separated.)

The youth group will sing sacred Christmas carols to all parishioners as they come to and leave Sunday Liturgy. Standing next to our manger scene will be a drop station to collect non-perishable food items for our Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry. During the same time, there will be ongoing fellowship in the church hall with a plethora of activities and treats. All are welcome to celebrate with us during Advent as we continue to be ever aware to keep Christ in Christmas.
— Madonna Hurchla, Director of Faith Formation
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Children and families in the Faith Formation program at Our Lady of Lourdes in Windsor will be making Advent wreaths during class time on Nov. 22. Confirmation candidates picked apples at the Transfiguration Monastery as one of their service projects and will also help with the distribution of Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets in the near future.
   — Nancy West, Faith Formation Associate
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Middle school students from the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Greene accepted the challenge of experiencing “A Night in a Box” as a homeless person. Each student brought a box and blankets to spend one night outside under the stars, to experience in a small way what it is like to be homeless. Students began the retreat by attending Mass together and then making homemade chicken noodle soup for the homebound of our community. After a dinner the students made together, they watched a movie hosted by Chris Wentlent, a member of Immaculate Conception Parish, called “Unconditional” about doing small acts of kindness for people in our own neighborhoods. On Sunday morning as the rest of the students came in for class, these brave students cleaned up their box homes and packaged up soup to deliver to local residents.
   — Lorraine Detweiller, Catechetical Leader
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St. Ambrose Parish in Endicott has started to use the “Altaration” series, a 5-week  DVD series about the Mass created by Mark Hart and Ascension Press,with the Confirmation group. We did a review for Liturgy of the Word and showed the video of the Liturgy of the Word, and did the same with the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The program is keeping the students interested, engaged and they remember things from week to week. It explains the reason behind everything at Mass, for example why we bless ourselves with holy water when we walk into church, what is the significance of “The Lord be with you. And with your spirit,” and how every time Mass is celebrated the world is changed.
   — Dawn Valla, Catechetical Leader
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Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Hannibal celebrates a Youth Mass on the third weekend of the month September through May. We pick a topic that we are learning about in Faith Formation in that month. October was the month of Mary and we celebrated the feast day and honored Mary by doing the Rosary the “Elementary Way”!
   — Kathleen Emmons, Director of Faith Formation
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Teens at St. Charles-St. Ann Parish in Syracuse reach out to serve those in our own community.
This past summer the Youth In Ministry group worked the Matthew 25 Farm several times and delivered produce to the Assumption Food Pantry and to St. Lucy’s Food Pantry. Over the summer, the group also put on a barbeque for the Catholic Charities Men’s Shelter. Our chefs included Father Brian Lang on the grill! They also served a hot pancake breakfast at the Shelter at 6:30 a.m. on a Sunday.

The Faith Formation students also contribute to the Milk Mission, which purchases and delivers 70 gallons of milk to Assumption and St. Lucy’s Pantries every week. This year the Faith Formation students plan on focusing on the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy — continuing to reach out and meet those in need face to face.

This year, Faith Formation classes for teens end in a prayer service. During the last 15 minutes of the night session, all the classes meet in the church to pray together. Each class gets the opportunity to pick what communal prayer is prayed. The 100 or so teens have prayed the rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, they have meditated through Adoration and have experienced guided meditation. The class writes intentions for the evening and volunteers from each class lead the church in prayer.  Since this is new for all of us, the Peer Ministers (juniors and seniors) have led the first prayer services so as to give example on how to plan the night prayer. One of the teens commented, “I love how peaceful the night prayer makes me feel — the sound of the prayers prayed together is just so calming.” The best part of the evening is that the parents and families are invited to join us.  And the blessing is that they ARE joining us. The parents have commented on just how much they enjoy and look forward to the 15 minutes of peace and prayer. There is a power in prayer that is beyond anything we can teach. The grace and blessings given will join all of us in union with Christ as family.
   — Terri Condon, Youth Minister, Faith Formation Associate
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On Oct. 7, at St. Paul’s Parish in Rome, the Wednesday morning Faith Formation classes for Kindergarten through Grade 4 were very excited to celebrate “Perfect Attendance Day,” the first time in history (at least in my ten years at St. Paul’s) that every class had perfect attendance! We realized shortly after 8 a.m. that all 75 children were present and we came up with a certificate to print and distribute to each of the kids. Carolyn D’Argenio, one of our new catechists, had a camera with her and volunteered to take pictures of the kids and their certificates. (The following week, we were almost perfect again, but one child was absent.)

There is such a wonderful, positive spirit on Wednesday mornings as we celebrate the process of Faith Formation. Parents bring their children to class and the kids practically run to join their classmates and catechists in their classes. Our catechists greet the children and parents at the doors of their rooms with huge smiles. We love Wednesday mornings at St. Paul’s! When class is over at 9 a.m. and we send the kids off to school on two buses to six Rome City Elementary Schools, we may feel a little sad to see them go, but we know that they’ll be back again next week. We are convinced that they are sharing the gospel message with joy in their hearts. It shows on their faces!
   — Kathy Sledziona, Director of Faith Formation
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To keep the momentum going from Pope Francis’ wonderful trip to the U.S., St. Joseph and St. Stephen in Oswego have initiated the “Flat Francis Project.” Each week a different student (grades Pre-K through 5) takes home our Flat Francis folder. In the folder the family will find Flat Francis, a battery candle, a listing of the pope’s intentions for the month and instructions asking the family to pray with Francis each day for a week, then take a photo or a video of something the family like to do together with Flat Francis and email it to us. We also include a prayer card with information regarding Pope Francis to keep in their home to continue their prayers after Flat Francis has left. We post the photos on the website when they arrive.  It’s a great way to encourage families to pray together!
   — Patrica Barnett, Director of Faith Formation
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On Sunday, Oct. 18 we had our first Whole Community/Intergenerational event for this Faith Formation year at All Saints Parish in Syracuse. The children presented information in various ways about the saint’s name that has been given to their classroom. We intentionally named one of the rooms after a saint from the Congo because of our Congolese community. The grades 2 and 3 class presented on St. Anurite from the Congo. They sang a rap song about St. Anurite and had the community clap their hands and snap their figures to help keep the rap beat.
Our next event will be Nov. 22 and the theme will be Advent.
   — Kathy Meus, Director of Faith Formation
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Faith Formation at Our Lady of Sorrows in Vestal is not all about time spent in the classroom. This past year (the Year of Evangelization as declared by Pope Francis) has been about trying new and exciting things here in Vestal.  Our usual time spent in the classrooms, where over 30 volunteers help our young people experience life as a young Catholic, continues to grow each year. Our post-Confirmation students have come back to help our young people “walk the walk and talk the talk.” But this year at OLS we have added events like Movie Night at the end of our Vacation Bible School. A huge screen was brought in and a drive-in movie theme was shared by the entire neighborhood, which was a big hit.

Our evangelization committee braved the cold elements of trick or treating at Animal Adventure in Harpursville, N.Y., where they shared treats and hospitality with close to 1,000 young people.

Our very own Trunk or Treat offered a safe haven for young people, not only from the parish but in the neighborhood, to walk car to car and enjoy the decorations and goodies. This year we doubled the number of cars participating, and the number of young people enjoying the festivities.

All of our Faith Formation classes and many of their family members participated in the Walk to End Hunger at Binghamton University and raised over $5,000 for CHOW.

Our Kids Club program brings the younger students together who may not be old enough for the youth programs and lets them understand that they too are a very important part  of our “flock” and that service to others has no age discrimination. We have seen growth in attendance at of the children’s Mass, with participation expanding to all grades, not just the very young. Our young people are taking more ownership of this faith they call their own by watching those around them, and learning that they are completely capable of discussing their own faith with friends and family.

We look forward to this Year of Mercy coming in December and the service opportunities it will bring with it. It will be a learning experience for all involved. Our learning must be put into practice in order to do the work of evangelization.
  — Jackie Adams, Faith Formation Associate
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At both Church of the Annunciation in Clark Mills and St. John the Evangelist in New Hartford, new avenues of Faith Formation are being offered. “Families, Faith & Action” is an optional faith formation program that families are invited to participate in. This program, for Grades K-6, can replace or enhance the traditional Faith Formation program that is already established at the parish. Families meet approximately once a month in person for 1.5 hours each time (instead of every week). The first half hour is family activity time where the parents work on an activity with their child.

For the next hour the children join their regular grade level classes. During this hour the adults gather together to explore their own faith and experience each other in a small Christian community atmosphere. This is a time where the parents can be nourished and more prepared to engage their child at home in the monthly lessons.

In place of the weekly in-person class, the families have an online session to complete together before returning for the next monthly in-person session. Each family will also work on “take home” materials from the parish program.  To learn more about this family formation program, visit familiesandfaith.weebly.com.
   — Cheryl Smith, Faith Formation Associate

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