With a church full of children wearing colorful masks and necklaces, carrying banners and playing hand-crafted instruments, this was obviously not your average Mass.
Yet despite all the memorable visuals from this Mardi Gras liturgy, it was a different dynamic — the decibel level — that stood out the most to participants from Elmira’s Holy Family Primary School and their guests from Corning’s All Saints Academy. The rousing Mass took place Feb. 8 at St. Mary Southside Church in Elmira.
“Everybody was making a bunch of noise,” said Marissa Brannick, 8, a third-grader at Holy Family.
“It was pretty noisy,” agreed Rob Johnson, 8, another Holy Family third-grader.
What’s that, school children being encouraged to make a big uproar — in church, no less?
“That was, like, the first time ever,” said Hayley VerValin, 9, an All Saints third-grader.
“It felt great,” Rob remarked.
The 10 a.m. Mass, a highlight of both schools’ Catholic Schools Week celebrations, involved some 400 students. Attendees included all students in grades kindergarten through 3 from Holy Family Primary, as well as the entire student body (grades pre-K through 8) who bused over from All Saints.
Fat Tuesday — also known as Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday — occurs the day before Ash Wednesday. It is symbolized by celebrations involving food, music and other forms of partying in anticipation of the changes brought on by Lent, a period of self-sacrifice for Catholics. The most renowned location for Mardi Gras is New Orleans, La. Yet Fat Tuesday is celebrated all over the world, and St. Mary’s Church was no exception.
Major contributions from both schools’ music and art departments resulted in the glitzy garb and noisemaker-type instruments. Rose Ann Ewanyk, principal of All Saints, observed that students were pleased with the upbeat music, with songs “a bit more boisterous and peppier” than traditional church hymns.
“It’s different compared to the songs that we usually do when we go to Mass,” said Morgan Crisco, 9, a fourth-grader from All Saints.
The students’ appearances veered from the norm as well, with their Mardi Gras apparel situated right over their school uniforms.
“I liked that we could put all the glitter on our masks,” Marissa said.
Enhancing the day’s spirit was the celebrating priest, Father Jeremiah Moynihan, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. Connie Brady, principal of Holy Family Primary, noted that Father Moynihan has traveled to New Orleans in the past for Fat Tuesday and leads a Mardi Gras liturgy every year for her school.
“Father Moynihan, he loves to celebrate with the students,” Brady said.
Also on Feb. 8, All Saints students enjoyed a tour of Holy Family Primary and lunch with their hosts. According to Ewanyk and Brady, the event was a follow-up to a combined liturgy a few years ago for which Elmira students traveled to Corning. Ewanyk said that such activities are a nice bonus for All Saints, being that Catholic schools in her region are fairly spread out.
“To visit another Catholic school, we don’t often have the opportunity to go visit,” she said. “It’s just another way of taking our faith and having our children live it — going to another church and feeling welcomed at that church.”
Brady gave this year’s Fat Tuesday experience a big thumbs-up as well. “It was just wonderful; it was great. We had a nice full church, and the music was phenomenal,” she said.
Hayley noted that one student seemed taken aback by all the hubbub. However, she stated, “Everyone else thought it rocked.”