FAIRPORT — Are your Sunday afternoons a bit too much on the mellow
side? Check out Church of the Assumption’s Life Teen liturgy, and
you’re bound to get a satisfying jolt.
Each week at 5:30 p.m., Assumption rocks with pulsating music that
practically has worshipers dancing in their pews. More and more, those
pews are filling up as Life Teen grows in popularity.
Weekly attendance has more than doubled — the average number is
currently 350 — since Church of the Assumption held its first Life
Teen liturgy this past Sept. 28. Though aimed at the teen population,
Life Teen has generated a sizable number of adults who respond to the
“Teens are loving it. Families are loving it,” remarked Marie Claus,
Assumption’s youth minister.
“The Mass seems to tap into the deep spiritual hunger of people of
all ages,” added Father Edward Palumbos, pastor of Assumption, who
serves as celebrant for most of the Life Teen Masses.
Assumption is the first parish in the Rochester Diocese to
implement Life Teen, an international movement. Life Teen liturgies
last slightly more than an hour and lead into Life Night, the weekly
meeting for Assumption’s high-school youth group.
Teens fill many of the liturgical roles — greeters, ushers,
lectors, eucharistic ministers. Prior to Life Teen, youths at
Assumption “didn’t really get themselves involved in the Mass,” said
Seth Pensgen, 16, a lector and eucharistic minister.
Teens are also encouraged to join the celebrant on the altar during
the latter part of the Mass. At a Life Teen Mass Jan. 4, approximately
40 young people — many of them arm-in-arm — formed a semicircle
around Father Palumbos.
“None of the kids are really afraid,” said Matt Phillips, 15, a
eucharistic minister who enjoys taking part in this ritual. “We all go
to school together and are really good friends.”
“It’s an issue of intimacy. We’re trying to say ‘You have a place at
the table,'” Father Palumbos said, emphasizing that this — and all
other Life Teen elements — fall within Catholic Church liturgical
The cornerstone of Life Teen is a group of eight to 10 talented
young adults — both Catholics and non-Catholics — who form the weekly
musical ensemble. They offer quality vocals, guitar, drums, flute and
brass, playing selections ranging from Christian rock to music from
“Godspell” to a lively version of “O Come O Come Emmanuel” during a
recent holiday liturgy.
Claus said the music is so crucial that Assumption refused to launch
Life Teen before the musicians were firmly in place. Added Father
Palumbos: “People are taking that music away when the celebration is
over. To me, that’s good spiritual music — it doesn’t leave you when
you leave church.”
Though new in the Rochester Diocese, Life Teen is well established
in other parts of the United States. It began in 1985 and is still
headquartered at its original parish, St. Timothy’s in Mesa, Ariz. Life
Teen has approximately 850 affiliates at parishes in the U.S. and 11
Claus, Father Palumbos and others connected with youth ministry —
including Seth and Matt — observed Life Teen and Life Night
gatherings first-hand in Arizona in the two years before it began at
Assumption. This detailed preparation is emblematic of Assumption’s
intent for Life Teen to be a permanent fixture there. “It’s a big
commitment, it’s not a fly-by-night experience,” Claus said.
According to Claus and Father Palumbos, some diocesan pastors are
now venturing out to Fairport on Sunday evenings as they consider
launching Life Teen in their own parishes. Meanwhile, within
Assumption, Life Teen continues catching on with people of all ages.
“The older people do relate to it. It’s not the youth revolution, so
to say,” Seth said.
“I even saw some grandmas and grandpas there, and I didn’t really
expect that,” Matt said. “I think older people like seeing the teens be
so into the Mass.”
Sally Sanford, 50, serves as head usher at Life Teen Mass. The
Assumption parishioner said she has struggled with her Catholicism at
various times in recent years, but Life Teen has helped renew her
“Isn’t this great?” Sanford exclaimed during the Jan. 4 liturgy.
“It’s bringing a lot of people back to the church, and it’s just what I