The parental blessing within the Rite of Baptism affirms that “parents are the first teachers of their children in the ways of the faith.” The parish supports parents in this sacred responsibility through the Saint Elizabeth Parish School, the parish Elementary Faith Formation (EFF) Program and the parish Youth Ministry Program.  All three programs seek to help the children and young adults of our parish community on their faith journey to become life-long Catholics who embrace the gifts of the Holy Spirit and reflect the stewardship values so important to all parishioners.

Andrew Shirker, who teachers seventh and eighth grade religion classes at Saint Elizabeth Parish School, explains that his goal is to connect the life of “Jesus the Man” to the experiences of his students. By drawing connections between their lives and the stories of the Gospels, his students find ways to live their faith each day. He knows that as the teen years approach his students will face many challenging decisions. He is hopeful that they will lean on the lessons of their faith to make good choices and turn to God when they make mistakes. Andrew says, “They don't need to stand up and preach to everyone; their actions and how they treat other people will show just what their faith is all about.” He believes that guiding his students to realize they can demonstrate their faith each day by the way they live is the most important lesson they can take from his classroom.

The EFF Program provides opportunities to students who are enrolled in public schools to grow in their Catholic faith as a source of strength and comfort. Fifth grade catechist, MH Taylor, reports that despite the distance learning format used during this pandemic year she was able to engage her students in thoughtful discussions. Her goal is to make classes fun and interesting in order to “create curiosity, encourage students to regularly attend Mass and to participate as part of the Saint Elizabeth community.”  Throughout the year she provided craft supplies to engage her students’ artistic talents. One craft, a decorative monstrance, helped emphasize the importance and beauty of Adoration.  Her Zoom sessions sometimes featured guest speakers, like Deacon Barry or Father Kevin. Each class was focused on how to provide students with a different perspective on their faith and how to help them grow in their faith.

The Youth Ministry Program provides a safe and supportive place for students in grades seven through twelve to explore and practice their faith.  Our Parish Youth Ministry Coordinator, Megan Carey, focuses program activities on three areas: stewardship, discipleship and spirituality. Agape Latte Saturdays, where the students attend the Vigil Mass and then gather for snacks and discussion afterward, provide a chance for the high schoolers to talk about scripture, learn about prayer and make their faith their own. One recent discussion focused on Psalm 23 and was especially enjoyable and engaging for the youth. Partnering with other ministries in the parish, Megan’s goal is “to show the kids the many ways parishioners can participate as part of the Saint Elizabeth community.”  During this year the Youth Ministry Program has worked together with the Knights of Columbus, the Family Life Ministry Team and the Crafting Hands Ministry to assemble toiletry bags for Saint John’s Hospice, make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the homeless in Kensington and provide hand-made Christmas cards to Father Kevin to send to children in Nigeria.

One benefit from all of these programs is that they spill over into family faith life as well. Of course, the biggest gift that comes from the work these teachers, catechists and ministers do is giving a foundation of faith that will guide our children and young adults for years to come. We are all grateful for their dedicated service.

  • Elizabeth Kazanjian