AUBURN — If you think bus buddies are just for little kids, think again.
More than a dozen teens from several Finger Lakes parishes gathered at St. Francis of Assisi Church on Aug. 18 to meet the peers who will become their bus buddies in November, when they travel to Indianapolis for the 2011 National Catholic Youth Conference. Four youth groups from the Finger Lakes region and one from the Southern Tier will be sharing the same bus, so the youth ministers thought it would be a good idea for the teens to get acquainted with each other before embarking on the long bus trip.
"We’re preparing for NCYC, and we’re getting to know our bus buddies," explained Anna Comitz, youth minister at Auburn’s Sacred Heart, St. Ann and St. Mary parishes. Comitz organized the Aug. 18 meet and greet in conjunction with Jeanette Housecamp of St. Michael in Newark, Anne Adessa of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Hyacinth in Auburn, and June Sherman of St. John the Evangelist in Clyde, St. Patrick in Savannah and St. Michael in Lyons. Andy Collier and Pat Collier, who were set to take over Comitz’s position after her Aug. 31 retirement, also helped plan the event.
After the youth ministers led the teens in some ice-breaking activities, the group practiced singing the NCYC theme song, which is based on the event’s theme of "Called to Glory." They went over the ground rules they’ll have to follow when they’re on the bus and then took the somewhat unusual step of coming up with a name for their bus. They christened the vehicle Swag Blast, which stands for Spiritual Witnesses Affirming God, Believers Love Achieving Spiritual Truth.
"I think the Swag Blast will be great, especially because now we all know each other and we can have fun," said Kevin Franceschelli of Sacred Heart and St. Ann. "All you need is a little blast of swag."
After they’d finished naming the bus and going over the bus rules, Andy Collier informed the teens that it was time for lunch, and that they must sit between two people they hadn’t known before that morning.
"The whole reason that we’re getting together is so that Auburn can meet Newark, so Clyde can meet Newark," he explained. "You guys are now going to prepare the lunch for the person to your right."
After reassuring the teens that he was not, in fact, joking, Collier explained that each teen would prepare a sandwich of bread, cheese and cold cuts for the person on his or her right, and that the group would wait until everyone had been served before eating.
"You guys are literally going to serve your neighbor. Once you get your food you can sit down, but that’s maybe a good opportunity to get to know your neighbor," he added.
Once everyone had been served the teens stood up again to pray before eating.
"God has done a lot for us. We have to stand up for him," explained Ryan Ringwood of Sacred Heart and St. Ann.
As they ate, some of the teens discussed their reasons for attending NCYC and some of the things they were looking forward to doing at the conference.
"Anna was talking about how fun it was, and my sister and brother have both gone before," said Celine Rescott of Sacred Heart and St. Ann.
"Anna told our youth group it can change your life," agreed Kevin.
"I went the last time and liked it, and my sister had gone with my dad, so it’s kind of a family thing," added Cyndi Coleman of St. Michael in Newark.
Kassandra Rose of St. John, St. Patrick and St. Michael said she wanted to go to NCYC because she heard it was a bit like the Diocesan Youth Convention, and she had a good time at the local convention last year. Fellow parishioner Alexis Smith said she was looking forward to meeting other Catholic teens at the conference.
"I just wanted to go because at my church there aren’t many kids, so it’s going to be nice to see all those other kids," Alexis said.
Sacred Heart parishioner Aaron Messina said he was looking forward to meeting Catholic teens from other states and making new friends.
"It’s fun meeting new people," added fellow Sacred Heart parishioner Luke Colella.
Jackie DeRegis, who belongs to the St. Francis and St. Hyacinth parish cluster, also said she was looking forward to meeting new people. Cyndi said she was eager to spend more time with the new friends she’d already made that day.
"I know we’re going to have a pretty awesome bus," she said.
"I think we all came together pretty well," Kassandra agreed.