We residents of Sacred Heart Cathedral parish house rose one morning last week to a very strange sight. Adorning our grounds were dozens of pink plastic flamingos that obviously had been placed there through the night.
We were puzzled. Was this the work of friend or foe? Of ally or protester? Were these birds signs of favor, or portents of bad things to come?
We soon learned — by discovery of a tag discretely attached to the neck of one of the birds — that this nocturnal act was the work of friends. Indeed, it was the work of very good friends — the youth group at St. Anne’s Parish, Rochester.
The flamingo caper is one of the youth group’s efforts to generate funds in support of their trip to Atlanta in October for the National Catholic Youth Conference. The scheme, as I understand it, is that the kids install the flamingos for nothing, but they charge a few bucks to take them away!
You have probably been aware of similar activities in your own parish these days. I know we will have our usual large diocesan delegation in Atlanta. And, I am aware, as you are, that there are significant expenses involved in the venture.
That’s why the kids wash cars, bake cookies, do yard work, shovel snow, produce shows, serve at table and sell T-shirts. They want very much to participate in the Atlanta experience and are willing to work hard to make it happen.
I admire that work, and I thank all of the young people who are involved in it. They and I know that all of their labors would be for naught were it not for your generous support and encouragement. For them and for myself, I thank you for your goodness to them. Your loving companionship means more than you can imagine.
I had a couple of reminders of that recently. At a parish picnic at Assumption in Fairport last week, I enjoyed the company of a young couple. As we engaged in mealtime conversation, the young woman spoke of her experience of World Youth Day in Denver in 1993. It was a pleasure to remember that experience with her and to note what a positive and lasting impression those days made on her.
When I went to St. Anne’s on the weekend following the invasion of the flamingos, I discovered that the raid had been conceived by the chairperson of the parish pastoral council, Rita Murphy, led by youth minister Karen Barg and executed by the young people of the parish. I thought it a pleasing and effective example of adults and youth working to achieve a wonderful common purpose.
Karen and I had a moment to remember the NCYC in Kansas City, which she attended when she was a senior in high school. Now, a college graduate, she is working in youth ministry, and we’re all the better for her career choice. She is one of several youth ministers in our diocese who came through our programs as teens and who, after college, continue on as adult leaders. I have no doubt that an important factor in that choice is the support they received from people like you when they were growing up.
So, if you’re asked to buy into flamingos, car washes, cake sales, craft shows or musical productions during the next few weeks by the young people of your parish, please do what you can with financial support, encouragement and prayer. It’s an investment that will pay off for a lifetime.
Peace to all.