Gathered under shelter 16 at Ellicott Creek Park, about 30 young adults celebrated Mass on a warm summer's day. Members of [re], Frassati WNY and a few strays came to worship in an environment different from the four walls and stained glass of their churches. St. Benedict Parish in Eggertsville hosted the event. Pastor Father Robert Mock celebrated the July 22 Mass.
Many who came to the park to pray attend one or more of the Catholic young adult groups in the diocese. [re], Latin for again, focuses on people from just out of high school to about 40 years old. It's a diocesan-wide group that gathers most recently at St. Benedict's. They meet once a month for praise and worship. Evenings usually include a witness talk, then fellowship and music, then some form of prayer. A planned speaker series called "Following in Their Footsteps" will focus on examples of those who have lived the Christian faith, but have not been canonized, people such as Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King Jr.
[re] started in 2010 as a collaborative effort among several parishes. It has had different leadership through the years, before coming to St. Benedict's.
"Last year, we at St. Benedict kind of took the reins to give it a home, give it a pastoral presence in Father Robert Mock. It's been great," explained Andrew Pitisi, youth and young adult minister at St. Benedict.
Frassati WNY is a group of young adult Catholics that get together every week to learn more about their faith through the example of a 20th-century Italian adventurer known as the "Man of the Eight Beatitudes."
"We go on adventures like Blessed Giorgio Frassati did. We really follow a lot of aspects of his life. We follow the Beatitudes," explained Allie Herian, 22, from St. Gregory the Great Parish in Williamsville. "We can do anything from having a speaker at Frassati to watching a DVD series to having a Bible study to anything a member requests that has to do with our faith."
In a busy world full of work and family obligations, what could make 25 people regularly show up to weekly meetings?
"Fellowship, 100 percent," Herian said quickly and succinctly. "Everyone is looking for somewhere to belong, somewhere to be. Frassati gives them that, gives them that community their age to be with for support. A lot of them come with different life stories and different areas of their faith. There's a place for everyone there. It's really beautiful."
Participants have found support for broken homes, ill family members, work problems and the stress of just being set apart from the world.
The Mass was open to all young adults from the diocese. Some, like Francis Boeck, found out about it on Facebook and decided to stop by before college started up again.
"In this first year of college, I haven't been getting involved with stuff. I've been busy," said the St. Amelia's parishioner. "I thought this would be a good event to get involved with. My parents did it when they were younger, that's how they met, through young adults. I figured, I might as well come out, meet some new people, see if anyone I knew showed up."
Heather Hoffman, from St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Niagara Falls came to the outdoor Mass to explain to her 4-year-old son that one can worship anywhere.
Burgers and hot dogs followed the Mass.