Local parishes are aware that it can be difficult for young adults to keep their faith during the transition from high school to college, and many have made efforts to help ease that transition.
Throughout the month of August, many churches incorporated into their Masses short blessings for college-bound students. At St. Louis Church in Pittsford, for example, high-school seniors were blessed at all Masses the weekends of Aug. 14-15 and Aug. 21-22.
"College is a challenging time in life, especially with the economy the way it is," said Father Kevin Murphy, pastor. "For these students, we pray for a rich experience, new friends, new teachers and new insight into themselves."
St. Pius Tenth Church in Chili also blessed all college-bound students during the weekend of Aug. 14-15.
"It is important that (college students) feel recognized by the parish community," said St. Pius Youth Coordinator Karen Ludwig. "Their future, while exciting, is also very scary for them. Maintaining their Catholic identity is now a personal choice, and our prayers and recognition are key in molding that identity."
During Aug. 21-22 Masses, Holy Family Church in Auburn specifically prayed for college students during the Prayers of the Faithful, and also placed their names in the parish bulletin. Since the parish recognizes in the bulletin other such milestones as weddings and baptisms, it seemed natural to also include the names of parishioners heading for college, according to Nancy Smith, faith-formation coordinator.
The students going off to college "need the love and spiritual support of our faith community," she said.
Some parishes also held to ease students’ transitions into college by sending care packages to first-semester freshmen. The youths at All Saints Parish in Corning, for example, send campus care boxes to students away at college. St. Pius’ youth group also participates in a similar project, which helps remind freshmen that "even though they are away, they are still a part of our group," Ludwig said.
At the cluster of St. Mary Parish in Canandaigua and St. Bridget/St. Joseph Parish in East Bloomfield, college-age parishioners have the option of participating in two special retreats. High-school students can attend a peer-led retreat in either the fall or spring, with graduating seniors receiving special recognition at the end of the spring installment. Parishioners already in college also can attend an overnight retreat meant for deep reflection on their lives and their places in the world.
According to Dawn Burdick, director of youth ministry, these retreats allow "kids to step away from their busy lives and catch their breath, have time to think and pray, and to … respond to how God is calling them in their life."