by Elsie Walker
called to be a caring Christian Community, aware of the needs of others, welcoming friend and
stranger alike, until there are no more strangers, “said Phil Lamoureux, Music Director of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Roman Catholic Church located in Flanders. Recently, Lamoureux, Rev. Stanley C. Barron, Pastor and Shannon Jones, Youth Minister/Confirmation Coordinator shared about their church’s worship, youth programs, and education, fellowship and outreach opportunities.
“Engaging with the good people of the parish and helping them to grow in relationship with Jesus is very rewarding,” said Barron. He shared that his initial call to the priesthood was shaped by excellent mentors who inspired him to walk in their footsteps. He has been a priest for 45 years, serving St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish for 14 years. “As a pastor, I have the opportunity to walk with people throughout their life journeys. I celebrate with parishioners in the joyful moments of life, such as baptism and matrimony, but also pray with them in times of illness and mourn with them in grief,” shared Barron.
The church’s worship style is contemporary, English-language Catholic Mass with music from contemporary Catholic composers and traditional hymns. “Contemporary [style] in this sense means we celebrate Holy Liturgy in the manner prescribed by the Second Vatican Council since the 1960’s, and not the Latin Tridentine Mass,” said Lamoureux.
Making up the music ministry of the church are the Seton Choir, the Family Choir. Teen Choir, and Cantors. The Seton Choir is an adult contemporary ensemble of about 10 singers accompanied by multiple guitars, bass, piano, flute, clarinet, djembe and hand percussion. “Approximately half the singers are also on an instrument. The Seton Choir leads song at the
11 a.m. Sunday Mass, Easter Triduum, holy days, Pentecost vigil, and Confirmation. The music is mostly English language, with some bi-lingual Spanish/English songs, occasional Latin, and a rare French or German song,” said Lamoureux. Leading song at the 9 a.m. Sunday mass is The Family Choir. Made up of 12 -15 people, age children – adult, it is accompanied by guitarist, bass and piano. At Saturday mass, cantors and the Teen choir lead song. “We are blessed with seven experienced cantors who lead song at the 5 p.m. Saturday Mass, and at the extra Masses added for Christmas. Most of the cantors also sing with the Seton Choir,” said Lamoureux. From September through May, the Teen Choir leads song once per month at that Saturday mass. Led by one of the cantors and an adult guitarist, the Teen Choir is typically made up of 6-10 singers and instrumentalists.
Monthly “Coffee and…” hospitality time is held after 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Mass one Sunday a month, giving parishioners a chance to say “hello” over baked goods, coffee, tea and juice.
Educating and supporting youth in the faith is an important part of this church, as shown by its Faith Formation Program, SPARK Teen Ministry, Peer Leader Team, Teen Advisory Board and Vacation Bible School.
“Approximately 300 children in grades K-8 attend weekly Religious Education classes in our classrooms on Sunday mornings or Monday afternoons during the school year. Sessions are led by dedicated catechists who pass on the Catholic faith to the children and help them to draw closer to God. Second graders prepare for, and receive, the Sacraments of Reconciliation and First Eucharist. As the children continue to grow and learn during each year of formation, they open their hearts and lives to the love, mercy, and nourishment of Jesus,” said Jones.
After finishing the K-8 program, teens enter a two-year program that prepares them “to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation,” she shared. “Our Confirmation Program is multi-faceted, offering many opportunities for growth through catechesis, prayer/worship, service, retreats, and fellowship within parish life,” she added.
A multi-media approach, focusing on critical thinking and discussion is used in the small group sessions which meet on either Sunday or Monday evenings and are led by devoted catechists. Their goal is to guide teens towards a deeper relationship with Jesus. The teens also learn about discipleship and serving, by doing outreach to the parish and community. “ Whether sharing their musical talents at Teen Masses, hosting a birthday party at the Mount Olive Manor, preparing lunches for the homeless with Bridges Outreach, or making weekend food packs for the children of a Paterson preschool, our teens use their gifts and talents to bring glory to God and make a difference in the lives of their neighbors. Upon receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, teens are ready for lives of discipleship,” said Jones.
The church also helps teens find their spiritual spark, though a program aptly named, SPARK Teen Ministry. Formed by teens for teens, SPARK is built on the belief that the youth are both the present and future of the church. The program is done in coordination with the confirmation program, but is open to any teen. It meets at least twice per month “to pray and worship together, serve their neighbor, and grow in friendship. In addition to monthly events, SPARK Teen Ministry offers an annual week-long mission trip each July and helps to run Vacation Bible School each August… SPARK Teen Ministry encourages all teens to open their hearts to the fire of God’s love and actively participate in the life and mission of the Catholic Church,” said Jones.
Also, after teens receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, they are invited to take on leadership roles as members of the Peer Leader Team and/or the Teen Advisory Board. Jones explained that the Peer Leader team plans and runs the 10th Grade Confirmation retreat. “After many hours of preparation, the team puts their plans into action by facilitating activities, leading small groups, and, most importantly, giving witness to God. They truly make a difference in the lives of their peers,” she said. “The Teen Advisory Board is a group of confirmed teens (high school juniors/seniors) who represent the collective teen voice of the parish and help to plan/lead social, spiritual, and service activities for their peers,” she added.
As for Vacation Bible School, the church is holding its fourth annual Vacation Bible School in August. The program, for children in grades K-5th (incoming September 2019), is called ROAR! Life is Wild ~ God is Good. Children will work together in crews and rotate through different stations, focusing on bible discovery, games, crafts, videos/discussion, and song/dance.
In addition to the offerings for children and teens, the church offers a variety of opportunities for adult spiritual growth and fellowship. Among the on-going ones is a monthly viewing and discussion of the “Catholicism” video series by Bishop Robert Barron. A Praying the Rosary group meets every Monday-Saturday morning at 8:15 a.m. and Thursdays at 6:45 p.m. A Men’s Fellowship meets at 7:30 a.m. on the first Saturday of the month, except July and August., and Women’s Fellowship meets at 9:30 a.m. on the second Saturday of the month, except July and August. On break right now, but resuming in the fall, is a scripture study led by Father Barron.
Programs held during certain times of the year include the church’s online reflection series located on the church’s website during the Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter seasons, a retreat for college age and up, plus special events where speakers and musicians come to the parish and bus trips. Of course, there is the opportunity for fellowship through joining in the church’s outreach projects.
“Our parish family performs a number of community service and outreach activities through the year, spanning the local communities of Mount Olive and Roxbury, the Diocese of Paterson, the northern New Jersey area, including Newark, and beyond,” shared Lamoureux.
The following are just some examples of the outreaches the parish does. It provides food for 30-40 families of the local community each week, with supplies donated by parishioners. The parish partners with Bridges (in Summit) to feed and clothe the homeless of Newark. Led by more than 20 members of the Teen Ministry, with support from 10-15 adults, the parish prepares nutritious bag lunches and distributes them in downtown Newark. In addition, the parish’s Good Samaritan Stitchers Ministry knits scarfs, hats, and mittens that are distributed along with the bag lunches and hot soup. That Stitchers ministry also stitches baby blankets, lap blankets, hats and prayer shawls that are donated to local hospitals, cancer centers, homeless shelters and makes scarfs and hats for military members serving overseas. The parish helps students through a variety of programs. At the beginning of the school year, it provides backpacks filled with school supplies to needy children of the community. The backpacks and supplies are donated by parishioners Through, El Mundo de Colores, the parish provides food for long weekends to children who would normally eat at school and at extended daycare. There is also a college care package program through which the Teen Ministry sends a cheering package to parishioners that are away at school. Among the many other outreaches the parish does are reaching out by working on Habitat for Humanity projects and a mission trip run by the Teen Ministry coordinated through Catholic HEART Workcamp.
This busy parish is looking forward to a variety of upcoming events. Currently, K-8 Religious Education is accepting registration for classes that start in early September. There is the parish picnic which will be held on September 15th in the field behind the church. A Catholic Adult Group will have an Italian night one Saturday in early October, and November will feature a Thanksgiving theme dinner. Lamoureux said to watch the website for details.