Teens from St. John of Rochester Parish in Fairport honor their veterans in a unique way. Each year on the Saturday before Veterans Day they show up at veterans’ houses unannounced and rake their leaves for them. Last year the 15 or 20 young people who participated were able to rake about 10 yards, said Michelle Hunzek, youth minister at St. John of Rochester.
"One of our parishioners cried when we all piled out of the cars and grabbed our rakes," Hunzek noted. "The teens still talk about how that touched them."
Several teens came up with the idea for the leaf-raking project several years ago after participating in a work camp, Hunzek said. The project obviously is beneficial for the veterans whose yards are raked, but it also has a profound impact on the teens doing the raking, she added.
"Our teens feel a connection to the larger church and to the adults of the church. The more senior parishioners make a connection with the young church. The larger church sees the greatness of the younger church. Teens are hungry for this connection," Hunzek said.
Many other parishes throughout the Diocese of Rochester honor their veterans during the month of November as well.
* A photo tribute to parishioners and loved ones serving in the military is prominently displayed in the Learning Center of St. Joseph Parish in Penfield. The display includes a photo of each military member, as well as his or her branch of service, rank and other relevant information. Volunteers with the parish’s transportation ministry drive veterans and other people in need to doctor appointments, church and the grocery store, and pastoral-care ministers visit veterans at their homes or health-care facilities and bring them Communion.
* St. Lawrence Parish in Greece has a designated space in its narthex for photos of men and women currently serving in the armed forces.
* In previous years, veterans in attendance at Ss. Mary and Martha Parish in Auburn have been invited to stand up after Mass and receive applause from the congregation on the weekend nearest Veterans Day.
* Photos of all the parish’s veterans — both living and deceased — are displayed at St. Peter Parish’s three worship sites in Shortsville, Phelps and Clifton Springs in November. Father John Gagnier, pastor, invites members of the local American Legion posts to do flag-raising ceremonies using flags donated by the families of deceased veterans. He also includes brief biographies of those veterans in the parish bulletins on the weekend closest to Veterans Day.
* All year long, special books may be found near the main entrance and the flags at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Brighton, and parishioners are invited to write the names of any beloved military personnel, living or deceased. Special prayers are offered for veterans during the Masses around the time of Veterans Day.
* Each of the three worship sites of St. Marianne Cope Parish in Henrietta and Rush features an informational board decorated with American flags and containing pamphlets about issues of special concern to veterans, including services available to veterans and their families. The parish also maintains a list of parishioners and their loved ones who are currently on active duty in the military, and parishioners regularly pray for those listed.
* At St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Ontario, Sodus and Sodus Point, veterans are asked to stand for a special blessing at the end of Masses on the weekend before Veterans Day each year. Deacon James Nail, pastoral minister at the parish as well as a veteran, preaches that weekend and devotes part of his homily to thanking veterans.
* This month young people involved with Catholic Charities of Tompkins/Tioga’s Youth Engagement Services Program will be making fleece lap blankets for veterans and taking them to the New York State Veterans Home at Oxford. They also will spend a day serving the veterans at the home and working on crafts and art projects with them. In previous years, the young people have put together care packages for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The projects are designed to help the participants learn about service, empathy, leadership, teamwork and pride, as well as gain a sense of historical perspective from hearing the veterans’ stories.