HILTON — St. Leo Parish’s LIFE TEEN Mass may only be a month old, but it’s already attracted more teens to the youth ministry than ever before.
But parish officials don’t plan to stop there: They want even more teens — as well as young adults and older folks — to pack the church each Sunday at 6 p.m. to worship in the energy-filled LIFE TEEN atmosphere.
“Your job is to bring other teenagers here,” Father Joseph Catanise said to the teens attending the Feb. 10 Mass. “Bring your friends or people you meet so they can enjoy the fruits of the holy Catholic faith. You are disciples.”
Like the rest of the teen-tailored Mass, which featured contemporary music and teen participants, Father Catanise’s homily on Satan’s temptation of Jesus also was focused on the youths.
He explained that Satan tempted Jesus to jump and act irresponsibly, appealed to his senses to eat food, and tempted him to take power and control of the world. Yet, just as Jesus turned down the temptations by turning to God, so can we turn down our temptations, Father Catanise said.
“You are powerful because you have Jesus with you at every step of the journey,” the priest noted.
Speaking directly to teens during Mass gets them involved in and excited about going to Mass, observed Michele Peachie, youth minister.
“There’s a lot more excitement,” Peachie said. “They feel that it’s theirs — their Mass and their night. They talk about it during the week.”
Peachie said Dominic Salamida II, the parish’s Christian-formation director, first suggested instituting LIFE TEEN at St. Leo. To learn more about it, several teens and adults from the parish visited LIFE TEEN’s Arizona headquarters. The group also reached out to St. Andrew/Church of the Annunciation in Rochester to learn about their LIFE TEEN program (LIFE TEEN also is offered at Fairport’s Church of the Assumption). After researching LIFE TEEN, St. Leo held its first Mass Jan. 27 with a crowd of more than 175 people.
Music is an integral part of LIFE TEEN Masses, and the St. Leo house band Hearts Ablaze formed as a result. The band prays together before each Mass and leads parishioners in contemporary music.
Band member Heather Hubbell said the Masses have been a hit for Hearts Ablaze members, who began practicing together at the end of November 2007.
“We are learning brand-new music, and we are celebrating our faith, and here the music really reflects that,” Hubbell said. “Here it reaches more kids and teens, which is beautiful.”
Brian Combs, a freshman at Rochester Institute of Technology and a former parish youth-group member, was one of those on the Arizona trip.
“It was totally different than a regular Mass,” he said of LIFE TEEN. “It was pretty intense. It was good, though.”
Youth-group discussions, which were previously held on Tuesdays, now take place immediately after the LIFE TEEN Mass for grades 6 to 12. In addition to discussions of issues or catechetical topics, the teens get together for socials and fun.
“It’s kind of easier (to meet after the Mass) for discussions, because Mass is fresh on our minds,” said Nick Fillion, a senior at Hilton High School. “We get to talk about it, and it’s a lot more fun.”
“There’s food, which is fantastic,” said Evan Bean, a Hilton High School junior.
Erica Rockafellow, a freshman at Hilton High School, described the Mass as “awesome and amazing.”
“We all get to interact with each other, and I feel like we get closer to God,” she said.