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Faith growing in Howard Beach – QNS.com

Faith growing in Howard Beach

Everyone can agree that the children are the future. And at St. Helen R.C. Church in Howard Beach, the focus is on a faith-filled future.
The parish, which serves all of Lindenwood and most of Rockwood Park, began holding Teen Masses - open to children in grades six through 12, and even some college students - in mid-October in order to minister to the area’s youth.
“There’s a growing need for us to minister to young people,” said Reverend Monsignor Richard E. Marchese, pastor of St. Helen for two and one-half years. “So far it’s been pretty well received.”
Marchese explained to The Courier Sun that under Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio’s stewardship, the Diocese of Brooklyn is undergoing reforms and updates.
“In light of the Bishop’s vision, one of his chief concerns as issued in his pastoral letter, is ministry to youth,” said Marchese. “They’re not just the church tomorrow, they are the church right now.”
He continued, “A great part of leadership is not just to see what we need now, but to see what we need for tomorrow.”
Joe Canzoneri agrees.
The facilitator for the Parish Council - made up of the pastor and about a dozen parish staff and laypeople - said the group talked to parishioners, performed a self-assessment and set goals - one of which was ministry to youth.
Part of that ministry, Canzoneri explained, is appealing to the young people.
“You need to have teen-friendly music that appeals to the teens and pays attention to the reverence of the Mass.”
The English teacher at Townsend Harris went on to say that during the Teen Mass - held every other Sunday at 5 p.m. - the youth are very much involved, from taking the collections to doing readings and greetings to performing all the musical selections.
“We have three teens on guitar, one on bass guitar, a college student on clarinet and two adults on guitar,” said Canzoneri, who said that that they rehearse every Friday, as well as one hour before the Mass.
In addition, he said, the Mass also features youth-centered homilies.
“We proclaim the gospel with fresh, new and vibrant ideas,” said Marchese, who also said that different priests celebrate the Liturgy of the Word.
After the hour-long Mass, the teens sometimes gather for bonding and reflection. For Christmas, they caroled and performed a skit on “The 12 Days of Christmas.” And recently, Canzoneri showed the film “Champions of Faith.” And it seems that at St. Helen the faith is growing.
“We have 400 more parishioners on Sundays than last year,” said Marchese, who noted that the religious education offered through the school requires families to attend Mass.
“We’re growing in terms of our appreciation of many things,” he said. “We’re working positively. The church is not merely a group of buildings, but a gathering of people.”
St. Helen R.C. Church is located at 157-10 83rd Street in Howard Beach. Masses are celebrated at 5 p.m. Saturdays; 8, 9:30 and 11 a.m., as well as 12:30 p.m. and 5 on Sundays; and weekdays at 7 and 9 a.m.
To find out more, call the rectory at 718-738-1616 or visit www.sthelen.org.

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