WESTON—Foundations in Faith hosted their annual Bishop’s Reception on a warm September afternoon in Weston at St. Francis of Assisi Parish Hall. Over 120 people of all ages gathered to celebrate one another as fellow 2019 grant award recipients. Elements of the afternoon included Bishop Frank J. Caggiano acknowledging each of the grant recipients from four funds, followed by an announcement about a new grant opportunity for youth.
Bishop Caggiano is offering two $5,000 grants—one to a to a Catholic High School and one to a Catholic Church high school-aged youth group in the Diocese of Bridgeport. Known as the Youth in Action Grant it is “by youth – for youth.” Bishop Caggiano expressed that he is eager to hear young people’s ideas on how best to re-energize the teen Catholic faith experience. According to the bishop, “We need to listen to their voices and give them the space and resources to design programs and projects that will resonate with them.”
Bishop Caggiano challenged the teens to propose a project that includes elements of 1) collaboration 2) evangelization and 3) mission work. According to Kelly Weldon, director of Foundations in Faith, “Too often we have adults deciding what would be best for our youth. Times are calling for us to flip the script and let the youth innovate and show us adults a new way for youth to deepen and get excited about their faith journey. The Youth in Action Grant is intended to be youth-led with support and guidance from an adult mentor.”
Youth in Action applications will be submitted electronically by November 22. The strongest high school project and youth group project will be announced in December. The funded projects will begin in January 2020 and continue through the calendar year.
The youth were energized by this announcement and eager to hear details that were shared on Foundations in Faith Instagram, Facebook and website. Following the bishop’s announcement there were photos, fellowship and food—a popular “taco bar” was a hit.
Three groups known for their innovation were asked to present on their St. John Paul II funded projects. Caitlyn Stote, Amanda Stote and Staci Genovese co-founders along with Diane Kremheller of Catholic Adventures of Stamford told of the creation of a millennial Catholic group who engage in hiking, bowling, theology on tap, bible study and street evangelization activities. The combined approach of social and spiritual activities has resonated with a growing number of young professionals in the Stamford community and beyond. Nothing like Catholic Adventures existed, so, they created it and it certainly is resonating as evidenced by their growth and offerings, the women explained.
Karen Lannigan from St. Theresa Church spoke about the STAY youth group. Karen described teen service projects developing into a community of youth who wanted to deepen their relationship with God and their Church community. They became a youth apostolate—gatherings expanded to saying the Rosary and Adoration, their energy and devotion were evident.
Lannigan reinforced the importance of listening to youth and asking them what they needed and she gave them the opportunity to take on leadership roles and encouraged them to develop the program. Needless to say, the St. Teresa youth group is empowered by the approach and the Holy Spirit. Their goal is to expand to the middle school group and continue to grow the momentum. In the spring of 2020 St. Theresa will be hosting the very popular REBOOT. This is a group to watch!
The final presentation was by Youth Minister of St. Peter’s Church in Danbury, Mike Falbo. Falbo spoke from the heart about the challenges and joys of working in a multicultural community. His experiences taught him that the youth needed a “home” of sorts where the youth could encounter Christ in their hearts.
Many of the youth were coming home from school to clean, cook and take care of their siblings because mom and dad worked two jobs. They needed a place, a youth group where they could be kids and connect with one another.
Falbo explained that a retreat-style approach to youth group was the best way for them to encounter their faith. “Trunk or Treat” or pizza once a month, he joked, was a “fail.” He advises, stepping back and trying to understanding what the youth need. It comes from building a community and trust with the youth and then taking the time to listen, to empathize, to learn from them what they need and want to deepen their faith. “They need to experience Jesus in their heart not just know of Jesus in their mind,” Falbo said.
The evening concluded with a Family Bible Challenge Trivia activity and a lively musical performance by the Redemptoris Mater Seminarians.
The Foundations in Faith Board of Trustees congratulates the following recipients:
St. John Paul II Fund
Basilica of St. John the Evangelist — “Catholic Adventures” Millennial Street Evangelists
Christ the King Church
Holy Name of Jesus Parish
Our Lady of Parish Church — Youth Led Theater Group – “Our Lives Original Players”
St. Aloysius Church
St. Andrew Church
St. Emery Church
St. Joseph Parish — Raise Consciousness among Mothers’ Project
St. Luke’s Church — Teen Communications/Social Media Intern Program
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Church — Expand successful WALK youth group to Middle Schoolers
St. Matthew Parish — Pray, Eat, Meet – Millennial Diner Discussion group
St. Michael Archangel Church
St. Patrick Church
St. Peter Church — Retreat Style Youth Ministry
St. Philip Church
St. Rose of Lima Church — Teen Missionary Discipleship, Alpha Build Out
St. Theresa Parish — STAY program expansion, Host 2020 REBOOT
St. Thomas the Apostle Parish
The Church of Blessed Sacrament
The Leadership Institute — Family Bible Challenge and Youth Retreat Stipends
St. John Vianney Fund
Our Queen of Clergy Retired Priests Residents
St. Charles Borromeo Fund
St. John Fisher Seminary — Office of Vocations & support for seminarian formation
Redemptoris Mater Diocesan Missionary Seminary — support growing needs of seminary
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Fund
Catholic schools in the diocese to keep cost of tuition low