Each August hundreds of young people arrive in Aurora, where they will spend the next several months studying at Wells College.
The influx of people into the town is balanced, however, by the departure of dozens of part-time Aurora residents who maintain summer homes on Cayuga Lake.
Like those at many other Finger Lakes parishes, parishioners of Good Shepherd Catholic Community — a parish with four worship sites — strive to welcome and embrace everyone who enters their community, no matter how long they dwell there, said parishioner Marge Callahan. She, Anne and Pat Miller, and several other parishioners demonstrated that resolve by planning a special Sept. 2 breakfast at St. Patrick Church in Aurora
The church is no longer open full time, and instead is only open for Wednesday-morning Masses throughout the year and for Sunday-morning Masses for 12 weeks during the summer, Callahan said. Nonetheless, parish volunteers continue to plan the annual breakfast at the church to bid farewell to their summer parishioners and welcome Wells College students to the parish, she said.
“It is a college town, so we try to do our very best to extend hospitality to all of the summer visitors, and especially we do welcome Wells College students back in the fall,” she said. “Our focus has been to try to be welcoming to both our regular parishioners and the summer residents.”
Vacationers flocking to summer residences on the Finger Lakes also visit Our Lady of Peace Parish in Geneva and Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community (St. Michael, Penn Yan; St. Andrew, Dundee; St. Theresa, Stanley; St. Mary, Rushville; St. Januarius, Naples; and St. Patrick, Prattsburgh). Like Good Shepherd Catholic Community, both Our Lady of Peace and Our Lady of the Lakes also reach out to young adults who take up temporary residence in the area while they attend Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva and Keuka College in Keuka Park, respectively.
Starting Sept. 2, Our Lady of Peace planned to move its 5 p.m. Sunday Mass at St. Stephen Church to 4 p.m. Sunday afternoons in St. John’s Chapel at Hobart and William Smith to accommodate students. The same day, Father Robert Ring, pastor of Our Lady of the Lakes, planned to begin celebrating Masses at 7 p.m. Sunday evenings in the Norton Chapel at Keuka College.
“It’s important today to reach out to the young adults because they are the church of tomorrow. We just want them to feel welcome and to extend our hospitality to them,” Callahan said.
Although Sept. 2 was both the date of the breakfast and the last date St. Patrick Church in Aurora was open for Sunday Mass, Callahan said the Wells College students continue to be part of Good Shepherd Catholic Community, usually by attending Mass at St. Michael Church in Union Springs or Our Lady of the Lake Church in King Ferry.
“We want them to feel a part of Good Shepherd Catholic Community, so (the breakfast) is probably the only way that St. Patrick’s can do it because they’re just coming back. They’re not here during the summer when our church is open,” Callahan said.
The breakfast, which normally includes such goodies as eggs, sausage, bacon, fruit, waffles, pastries, coffee and juice, is usually very popular among students and summer visitors alike, she added. It gives the students, who have usually only been in Aurora for a few days, a chance to meet and get to know their fellow parishioners.
“It’s just a wonderful opportunity to reach out to them. I think they need to know that the church is there for them if they are going through difficult times and also to embrace their spirituality,” Callahan said. “We want to be here for the students for whatever needs they may have.”
Over at Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community, parishioners and students forge relationships and connections between the campus community and the larger community. Several parishioners attend the Sunday-evening Masses on the Keuka College campus, while some students attend Masses at the cluster’s six churches, Father Ring said.
A number of Keuka College students have become involved in the cluster’s music ministry, and students studying to become teachers often complete their student teaching at St. Michael School in Penn Yan, he added. A dedicated group of students meets regularly after the Sunday-evening Masses and members often urge others to begin attending the liturgies.
“They certainly bring a tremendous enthusiasm,” Father Ring said of the students. “They share some of the joy they have about their faith.”
Father Ring has invited all young adults within Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community — regardless of whether they attend Keuka College — to attend the Sept. 9 Mass in Norton Chapel and a pizza party immediately afterwards. The cluster is hoping to start a young-adult group, and Father Ring said he hopes young adults in attendance might talk about their needs and how the cluster might respond to those needs.
“We do have a number of young adults, including several of those who were very active in the high-school youth group and very much enjoyed the time they spent together, and they miss it a great deal,” Father Ring said. “Obviously they can’t participate as high-school kids anymore, but they do have a desire to gather and share their spirituality.”