People Doing Great Things for the Youth

johnTonight I was invited to tell the Parish Council of St. Mary’s Church about our huge and growing community of adults who devote themselves to providing discipleship to the youth of St. Marys. When we combine the Life Teen core team, iCafe volunteers, other youth ministry volunteers, and everyone at any level who works to share the Gospel with teenagers via Inter-parish Youth Ministry, we arrive at a number heading towards 50 adults. Everyone should know about these people, and all that they are accomplishing. Tonight I was given the privilege of sharing the work of these amazing people with the Parish Council of St. Marys.

First, thank you to the amazingly talented team of volunteers who work so tirelessly for the cause of youth evangelism. Many thanks to Fr. Meinrad and Pam Smith for allowing me this wonderful opportunity to present all of this to the Parish Council, and thanks to Georgia Wagner for her exuberant encouragement to make this presentation in the first place. Thank you to the wonderful members of the parish council who made me feel so welcome. After having met the parish council and to see them gathered together and working, I am convinced there is reason for great optimism and the future is bright.

presentation-2-headIt is never hard for me to sing the praises of amazing people, and tonight I was able to proclaim the amazing work being done by people like John and Anita Detweiler of our Life Teen core team. They lead Life Teen teachings and we are working on our new SMAHS Catholic Life Teen Club. There are so many other Life Teen core team members who put forth such amazing efforts that I could not possibly fit them all here. Also included in this team are Mark Flacinski, Roseanne Ehrensberger, Tom and Kim Kerchinski, Linda Petruna, Mark Candalor, and so many others. We have such a great number of excellent Life Teen core team members that a single blog post could not do them justice.

The parish council meeting also learned about the success of our Wednesday night youth groups at which Mary Benigni, Mike and Jen Gelsick, and so many other adult volunteers participate. What a joy to share news of our daily iCafe activities where fine adults like Rich Aiello, Bonnie Pearson, Fuzzy Cappiella, Debby Kronenwetter, Roseanne Ehrensberger, and so many others contribute to a safe and fun environment for the kids. Our volunteer base is growing – and it needs to keep growing. There is more to do! This team is making a difference in the world. It is astounding to think of what is currently being accomplished.


How to fit a youth ministry program comprising so many elements into just a few minutes? The inspiration came from examining some of the old parish bulletins. Every year all parish bulletins are bound into book form and stored. There are nearly 50 years of bulletins archived at the parish. I went back – way back – to the 1960’s and started looking through many of the bulletins. As I moved from the 1960’s to the 1970’s and then on to the 1980’s and beyond, I realized that one day, perhaps 50 years from now, someone would be looking back at us, we who are here today, reading about what we have done today to plant seeds and build up the Church for the future. This lead to the idea of writing a letter from the perspective of a man in the year 2028 who is about to be ordained as a priest. He is thinking back to the difference his parents made in his life, and he recounts all the different ways that youth ministry was there to nurture his faith along the way. He mentions the social events, the faith sharing meetings, the retreats, the Eucharistic Adoration, the adult volunteers, the friendships made, and the lessons learned. This letter from the future helped to convey the values and the mission of all the people who come together to create such a miraculous collection of ministry offerings for the teens today.


Tuesday Teen Faith Sharing Group

Thanks to Fuzzy Cappiella, a wonderful local mom, for volunteering in our Tuesday teen faith sharing group, and to Bonnie Pearson for contributing to brainstorming ideas for the topical discussion. Fuzzy started the day off by briefly sharing her own experience of the practice of praying before meals. Then as a group we reflected on Luke 1:29-33 in light of Pope Benedict’s homily on the subject where the pope emphasizes that the words “Do not fear” apply to us as much as they apply to Mary.


After this we did an examination of conscience and prayed a decade of the Rosary. John presented an overview of the recent Life Teen teaching on living simply (which was a particularly relevant subject considering that we are currently in the midst of Lent.)


This was followed by snacks and soda along with a discussion of current pop culture headlines being noticed by teens. The teens at today’s gathering knew all about musician Rihanna’s recent news which related to breaking up and they offered many of their own ideas and perspectives on how good relationships should work. The teens knew far, far more about this pop culture musician than the adults did, and they offered ideas on how our Catholic faith can help us in making better choices.

This was a fantastic youth group experience and we are pleased to have a group where teens can take the next step in their understanding and practice of the Catholic faith through prayer, fellowship, teachings, and discussion.


Tuesday Teen Faith Sharing Group: Every Tuesday 5 to 7 pm.

The Possibilities Are Amazing


June 15, 2028

Dear Dad,

As I prepare to be ordained to the priesthood next month, my spiritual director has encouraged me to write a special letter to the person I credit the most with helping me to follow the call to priesthood. Dad, that person is you.  You will probably be surprised to hear this, but it all started in my Junior year of high school, over fifteen years ago… way back in 2013 when you were reading the church bulletin and you saw that the new Catholic club was starting at the public high school. You encouraged me to go, so I went. I have to tell you, dad, I never really cared much about praying back then. The weird part is that the club didn’t even feel very religious. Even so, just the fact that I was going to a Catholic club awakened something inside of me. I started to notice friends from the Catholic club throughout the school day. A few of these friends invited me to youth group on Wednesday nights.

All we did at St. Marys youth group on Wednesdays is play some pool and eat good food, but at that youth group, I made a whole lot more Catholic friends, and I met adults who were involved in church.  Eventually as I got to know these adults, a few of them suggested that I might get something out of attending a Divine Mercy Encounter. I did not really want to go, but one day at dinner time, I mentioned it to you, and you encouraged me to go just to see what it was like. Only because you encouraged me, I agreed to go.

Dad, going to that retreat changed my whole life. For the first time, I discovered a real personal ownership of my faith in God. I was never the same again. The retreat was just a few days, but when I came back from it, I started to attend the teen faith sharing group in iCafe on Tuesdays. It was in the same place as the pool tournaments, but this was a whole different level of being involved in a church activity.

There was more substance to that Tuesday weekly teen faith sharing gathering than there was at the pool tournaments. Suddenly we were talking about things like offering our whole day to God as soon as we woke up each morning. This was the first time I had ever heard about making a “Morning Offering.” Dad, this made a huge difference in my life. I remember one day, I woke up and was in a bad mood. I came downstairs and the first words you said to me that day were something about how I needed to keep my room cleaner. I was so tempted to roll my eyes at you, but then I instantly remembered that just a few minutes before, in my Morning Offering, I had offered all of my actions that day to God. I did not want to give God a gift like me rolling my eyes, so I refrained. I will never forget that moment. It was the first time I felt like God was helping me to find self control. I even remember how you looked at me in a funny way when I told you that you were right, and that I would do a better job keeping my room clean. I think you could tell that something amazing was starting to happen inside of me. It was so many little things like this that started to change my life.

In addition to learning about making a morning offering at the Tuesday teen faith sharing group, we learned to examine our conscience each night before we went to sleep (which was the first time I had ever heard about a “Nightly Examination of Conscience.”) We were also given support for praying before meals, going to confession regularly, and attending Mass, even on days other than Sunday. Is it any wonder my life was totally transformed? My grades went up, my behavior improved – and yes, my room got cleaner!

I remember the most amazing thing happening at YCEA (the Young Church Eucharistic Adoration for teens.) I was still experiencing a heightened sense of faith from the Divine Mercy Encounter, and I wanted to adore Jesus in the Eucharist just like we had done at the Divine Mercy retreat, so I went to YCEA Eucharistic Adoration and started to pray. I felt a deep peace enter my heart, and someone there offered a prayer for vocations to the priesthood. Dad, I was staring at the Eucharist, and I heard that petition for vocations among teens, and I remember asking myself seriously for the first time: am I called to be a priest?

Thanks, dad. Thanks for everything. I cannot see myself having followed the call to this vocation without you encouraging me to be involved in youth ministry. You gave me very gentle nudges here and there, and there was so much waiting for me in youth ministry. It was at my school, it was at iCafe and Wednesday youth socials, and when I was ready, youth ministry was ready with ways to grow in the faith like the teen faith sharing group on Tuesdays, YCEA eucharistic adoration, youth conferences, retreats, and other opportunities. All of the adults, from the volunteers to the priests who were involved in youth ministry made such a big impression on me. As a priest, now I will do whatever I can to give the youth I serve these kinds of life changing opportunities. You are an amazing dad.

See you at the ordination, and tell mom I love her!

Your Son

Learn More About the Divine Mercy Encounter (DME)

Next DME is April 19

Moms Appreciation Night a Success!

photo-18Super fun, super wonderful mom’s night! Thanks to the nearly 30 moms who showed up, enjoyed brownie sundaes, received massages, and chatted over coffee, and snacks before enjoying a bit of shopping for candles and 31 products. We hope you feel loved and appreciated by the church for all you do. Thank you, moms!

Becky Herzing MassagesAbove Picture: Thanks to Becky Herzing Massages for being at the CCC to provide wonderful, relaxing massages to all moms. If you missed mom’s night but would still like to set up a luxurious massage appointment, call Becky at (814) 594-5121

photo-17Above picture: Thanks to Lori’s candles for being at the CCC with a beautiful display of wonderfully fragrant candles. If you missed Lori, call her at (814) 814-371-9746 to shop her selection of candles or to invite her to your event.

Thank you to Giant Eagle for their gift card donation. Congratulations to Janet van Eerden for winning!

Special thanks to Mike and Jen Gelsick for thinking of this mom’s night, for arranging brownie sundaes (which Jen baked from scratch), and even for bringing their own bowls from home to serve the sundays in. Plus, Jen brought in a large array of 31 Products and arranged an inviting retail display right in the middle of iCafe. It was amazing. The Gelsicks spared nothing!

Even though it was not a fundraising night, we still received $40 in cash donations on the mom’s night, and this money has been put towards starting food service for 20 in the iCafe. On the following day, the youth at the Wednesday night Teen pool tournament benefitted by enjoying spaghetti which was served on our brand new iCafe plates!