Wednesday, March 19, 2008

County Catholics gearing up for pope’s visit

Youngsters compete in video contest for tickets to Mass at Nationals Park

E-mail this article \ Print this article

Charles E. Shoemaker⁄The Gazette
Liesl Green, 9, of Poolesville and Frank Quaranta, 10, of Clarksburg make cue cards for a video they will film at St. Mary’s Church in Barnesville, to win tickets to the pope’s upcoming Mass at Nationals Park in Washington.
Pope Benedict XVI is used to being greeted with bows and kisses to his ring, but Catholic youths all over Montgomery County are preparing to welcome him to the nation’s capital in a more modern way — with original videos.

The Catholic youth groups with the most creative two-minute videos honoring the historic visit will win 15 tickets each to the pope’s April 17 Mass at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. Youngsters from the Archdiocese of Washington, the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Diocese of Arlington are participating in the contest. The winning entries, which will be announced April 2, may be played before the ballpark Mass.

‘‘It’s a really unique opportunity for our young people, and they’re getting really creative,” said Krystyn Schmerbeck, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington. ‘‘... It’s really a very historic trip in a lot of ways, so we really want our young people to get excited.”

The deadline for entries was Monday, so groups were busy last week putting their finishing touches on their videos.

‘‘The nice thing is that we’re close enough to the city that it’s possible,” said Boyds resident Donna Miller, who helped organize the entry produced by students in grades two through 12 at St. Mary’s Church and Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Barnesville. Their video is about a country church preparing for the pope’s visit and hoping that he will go off the beaten path and pay them a visit.

‘‘We’re so far removed out here — in God’s country, as we call it,” Miller said with a laugh.

After three weeks of hard work, 12 high school students at the Church of the Resurrection in Burtonsville submitted their video entry on Monday.

Helene Stever, director of youth ministry at Church of the Resurrection, called the students’ video ‘‘beautiful.”

‘‘It was really wonderful to see the joy and the enthusiasm from the youth in anticipation of the Holy Father’s visit,” she said.

The entry, Stever said, combined many different elements, including a song written and performed by the students and inspired by a quotation from the pope as well as a small party in anticipation of the pope’s 81st birthday on April 16.

On March 9, the group of teenagers took the cameras to the streets of Washington, D.C., in order to give the pope a ‘‘tour” of the nation’s capital. Stops along the way included the Franciscan Monastery, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Monument with the tour ending at Nationals Park.

‘‘At the locations the students taped a message to the Holy Father, welcoming him and telling him what their visit means to them,” Stever said.

Other local groups entering the video contest include St. Jude Catholic School in Rockville, the St. Rose of Lima Children Love Christ Choir in Gaithersburg and a group of county home-school students, according to Kathy Dempsey, another Archdiocese spokeswoman.

As part of the build up to the historic visit, St. Jude has also made a pope paper chain and is beginning each day with the Pope’s Prayer. St. Peter’s Parish in Olney is hosting a pope trivia night for youths on March 30. And St. Catherine Labouré church in Wheaton will be talking to high school students about the pope on April 11.

The youngsters from St. Mary’s spent an afternoon last week working on their video, making signs, writing out cue cards and practicing lines. The older students acted out brief skits, while the younger ones recited prayers.

Six fourth-graders taped their portion standing in front of the red brick church, fighting to read the paper cue cards flapping in the light breeze and pausing when a car drove by. They held vases of flowers and a big yellow sign that read ‘‘Welcome Holy Father.”

In their skit, the group talked about all the things they could do to greet the pope, but eventually conceded that he would never come all the way out to Barnesville.

‘‘You never know,” concludes Andrew Bacas, 10, of Barnesville. ‘‘You gotta have faith.”

Staff Writer Melissa J. Brachfeld contributed to this report.