By Georgiana Francisco | Correspondent
There was joyful chatter and lots of cheer in the air in the grassy park across from Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Hainesport, as children gathered around a small tent to get their freshly minted red or blue “I Like Being a Catholic” T-shirts before choosing teams for a game of kickball.
Almost 40 children and parents gathered the morning of Aug. 26 to celebrate the kickoff of a new junior youth ministry. Hot dogs were warming up as Deacon Leo Zito asked everyone on the field to join hands, form a circle and pray the “Our Father.”
Then it was game on.
Ginny Fama, who currently serves as the junior youth group coordinator, said the idea to form the group came from Father Joe Noche, pastor.
“I was very happy that he asked me to coordinate the group, because I would do anything for the children,” said Fama, who is also parish coordinator of religious education. “I made calls to parents we knew had children in first through third grades, and the response was remarkable. Some parents even returned my call from where they were on vacation saying they wanted to participate.”
Fama said she will be meeting with parents Sept. 9 to discuss future events, fundraising, and an official name and leader.
Father Noche said that with the junior youth ministry, he is hoping to build a community that involves all children, not just the older teens.
“We have a lot of young families who are not yet ready to be involved in the senior kids’ gatherings, so knowing the younger ones will soon grow up, we thought about how we could give the younger ones a good foundation,” he said, adding that it is his hope that the new group will help younger children realize Church is not just a building where they come to Mass or religious education classes, but “a whole community of faithful that offers outside fun and faith-based events and activities as well.”
“We want them to know that the Church wants to be a part of their lives and give them a stronger sense of who they are as Catholics,” he said.
Added Kacey Mikusa, youth ministry coordinator, “We are just trying to build the Church into a nuclear family where children of all ages can feel comfortable,” she said.
Deacon Zito echoed the same idea. “It’s important to have our children involved in Church youth groups, especially for those from sixth grade down,” he said, adding that this was one way to get the children involved in both activities and the Church at the same time.
Parents were also pleased with the new ministry.
Matthew and Alison Korbich attended the morning festivities with their three children.
“We both were part of a youth group when we were growing up, so we wanted our kids to have the same experience in their church,” Alison Korbich said.
Even Anthony Porto II, mayor of Hainesport and a parishioner, was on hand to watch the fun and support the event.
“Getting the little ones involved in parish activities begins to build a foundation for their moral code,” the mayor said. “As they grow older and become good Catholics with core values, they become better members of our community as a whole, with the ability to make good choices and decisions.”