By Celine Klosterman
MOUNT PLEASANT — Diane Tone wants to help make sure that even after Catholic youths leave home, they stay in the church.
So she and 11 other adults have launched the first youth ministry program in years at St. Alphonsus Parish in Mount Pleasant. Forty-seven sixth- to 12th-graders signed up Feb. 15 to take part in a youth ministry committee Tone hopes will strengthen their faith and keep them involved in the church through social events and fellowship.
“I knew this was something we needed,” said Tone. A mother of three teenagers and a religious education teacher, she felt “called” to fill that need.
The youth ministry committee she formed with Mary Edwards, Doug and Kelly Perry, John and Kathy Ita, Steve Park, Denise McCormick, Scott and Kim Munford, Connie Todey and Miguel Jaimes isn’t St. Alphonsus’ only effort to reach out to youths, though it is the largest. In November, Father Joseph Phung, administrator of St. Alphonsus, started a youth Mass in which children and teens lector, usher, sing and fill other roles every other month. And Fr. Phung has dinner with high-school seniors at the rectory monthly, as the parish’s former pastor, Father Nick Adam, did.
Students in grades kindergarten to 10, meanwhile, take part in the parish’s religious education program.
But Natalie Ita looks forward to new youth ministry offerings. “I think it’s pretty cool,” said the 12-year-old, who’s sung in the choir at St. Alphonsus’ youth Masses.
“I’m hoping to get to know other Catholic youths around our town,” said Grace Edwards, 11, who’s been an altar server at Mass.
The first youth group meeting, featuring prayer, discussion and faith-related games, will take place in March. Tone envisions youths also taking part in retreats, service projects, field trips, concerts, dances and other activities.
“This is a way to bring our youths to the church and liturgy; it’s a way to engage them in bringing the Gospel values back to their families and school,” said Fr. Phung.
“We hope to bring something good to our children and our parish.”