Youth Group Helps Neighbors in Need
By Aline Weiller
St. Francis of Assisi
November 16, 2010 (WESTON, CT) — Enjoy the leaves while you can, but once they fall, prepare for raking. Unless, of course, you’re lucky enough to have the Saint Francis teen brigade come to the rescue! For Westonites who required help with the big fall clean-up, the Saint Francis of Assisi Youth Group was a welcome sight. The parish’s “Drive-By-Raking” project was just one of the many outreach activities the teens take part in. The Youth Group meets weekly, from October through May, and is comprised of tweens and teens who give back to their community and beyond.
Led by Director, Brenda DeMattio, the St. Francis youths are involved in many activities of this sort. According to DeMattio, the “Drive-By-Raking” — now an annual event, six years running — was fully staffed with two dozen middle and high school kids and seven adults. Homeowners were surprised and grateful as the group descended on their properties and treated them to a much-needed fall raking.
The raking project, a hands-on favorite of many, is but one of the volunteer opportunities afforded to the teenagers of St. Francis. The Youth Group’s enrollment is year-round, though most register during back-to-school season when Religious Education begins. There is a 7th-8th grade Junior Youth Group and a 9th-12th grade Youth Group, both of which meet on Sunday evenings after a 5:00 p.m. Teen Mass. The mass incorporates teen singers and the Youth Group
is seeking additional teen musicians. The singers and musicians practice at 4:00 p.m. on Sundays, just prior to the Teen Mass.
The Mass celebration is followed by a pizza dinner in the parish hall, then break-out sessions with the respective Religious Education teachers. “Our parish Youth Group is ninety kids strong, with teens eager not only to learn about God, but to be part of St. Francis’ outreach ministries. It’s really amazing to see,” said Ms. DeMattio. She also noted many teens remain Youth Group members beyond making their Sacrament of Confirmation, which has recently been changed to the spring of 9th grade, versus it’s previous slot during the fall of sophomore year.
Other happenings sponsored by the Youth Group include the upcoming, “Breakfast with Saint Nick,” to be held Saturday, December 4th from 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon. Teenagers staff this event while parishioners swing by for breakfast, crafts, a holiday sale, and the ever-popular “photo-op” with St. Nick. A portion of the breakfast’s proceeds help fund a college scholarship awarded to a Youth Group member at the year’s close. Tickets are currently on sale after weekend masses on Saturdays at 5:00 p.m. and Sundays at 8:00 a.m., 9:30 a.m., and 11:00 a.m. Tickets will also be available for purchase via the St. Francis Preschool and Religious Education program. For more information, call the parish office at 203.227.1341.
Additional teen-supported happenings include an outing to Norwalk Hospital’s Whittingham Cancer Center, where the youths pay a winter visit to patients during their treatment. A March Shrove Pancake “Dinner,” where parish families feast on pancakes on the eve of Ash Wednesday, when Lent commences, is also scheduled. The Youth Group’s social and fund-raising efforts return in April when they host a Spaghetti Dinner and silent auction. Pasta is enjoyed by all, while shoppers peruse themed baskets donated by area vendors, parishioners, and the Religious Education families.
Other Youth Group activities include both a “Lock-in” overnight retreat for high schoolers and a “Midnight Run” trip to New York City over Memorial Day Weekend. After holding clothing, blanket, and food drives, the Youth Group and parent volunteers head into the City to distribute necessities to the homeless. “It is both a heart-breaking and rewarding night,” reflected DeMattio. “While handing out food and blankets, the teens realize how truly fortunate they are.”
St. Francis’ newly-appointed pastor, Fr. Michael Dunn, has been impressed with this year’s youths. “It’s refreshing to see the young people of St. Francis take ownership of their calling. They’ve embraced everything from assisting our Religious Education teachers to volunteering at local soup kitchens. I couldn’t be more pleased with their enthusiasm and dedication,” said Dunn. Father Dunn also encourages parents of both Religious Education students (Kindergarten – 6th grade) and Youth Group members (7th-12th grades) to join the parish’s Parent Advisory Committees. These groups meet periodically to discuss church activities and their childrens’ religious formation. To volunteer, contact Elise Major at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the St. Francis of Assisi Youth Group, contact Brenda DeMattio at 203.227.8353 or email@example.com. Ms. DeMattio welcomes one-time teen volunteers, but hopes for full-time members, who may just catch the spirit and join.
Momma says: This is a great opportunity for your teens to form great relationships with peers and to help others in need. I recall my days as a youth group member in NYC fondly. More importantly, the experience has instilled upon me the importance of working together to better the community.