Photos by Alan M. Dumoff, more photos ccdphotolibrary.smugmug.com
WILLIAMSTOWN – Here at Williamstown High School on April 17, in a second floor science room, 25 year old Anthony McCullough shared his conversion story with almost 30 high school students.
Again, a story of faith shared with public school students in a public school.
McCullough, a 2007 graduate of the school, spoke of when he realized that money, good grades and friends couldn’t bring happiness or fulfillment.
“I can’t put my faith and happiness into things of this world,” he said.
“I needed something deeper…I surrendered to God, and he’s taking care of me.”
Kim Fahy, 33, a 1998 graduate of the school, also shared her story, one of filling her teen years with drugs and alcohol.
Now, she fills her time with God; “Seek first his Kingdom,” she said.
Lastly, Melissa Saffiotti, 34, also a 1998 graduate, recalled finding God, along with “true friendship and true faith” at Rowan University’s Newman Center in Glassboro.
“Worrying is useless,” she urged the captivated high schoolers.
“God know what’s ahead of us. “We have to trust him, and put (everything) in his hands.”
The speakers’ reflections were in front of a newly-created group at Williamstown High School, +he ROCK, as it is known; a Catholic club open to students of all faiths.
+he ROCK gets its name from Matthew’s Gospel account where Jesus tells his disciple, Peter, that “you are the rock…that I will build my church upon.” Like St. Peter, the group hopes to create, nourish and strengthen young Catholics, strong and sturdy in the faith.
Meeting every the first and third Thursday during the school year, +he ROCK began after Mariah Brown, a junior at Williamstown High School and member of Our Lady of Peace Parish, Williamstown’s John Paul II ACTS youth group, last fall asked Kari Janisse, coordinator of Youth and Young Adult Ministry at the parish, if a Catholic club at the school was possible.
Janisse got in touch with Donna Alfarano, Our Lady of Peace parishioner and WHS anatomy teacher, and after receiving permission from the school, the group began meeting in February.
Since its inception, the club has averaged 30 students every meeting, which makes it “one of the biggest clubs in the school,” according to Brown.
Meetings begin with a prayer, and then include lessons and teachings on Catholic catechesis, and relating it to students and their busy lives of family, friends, school, and extracurricular activities.
Sixteen-year-old Alicia Foreman, a junior, learned of the group only afterstaying late for anatomy class one Thursday, and seeing Janisse set up the room for +he ROCK meeting.
After talking to her about the group, Alicia stayed for the meeting and has been hungry for more.
“I’ve started going to Mass, to spiritual guidance, and to young adult meetings,” she said. Baptized Catholic, she has not received any other sacraments, but plans on becoming involved next year with the Rite of Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
“This group has given me hope; it has given me somewhere to go, talk to people and feel accepted,” she said.
The meetings have helped make students passionate for the Catholic faith, desiring to share it with their peers.
“I want to let every person in the hallways know about this group,” said junior Catalina Moraes. +he ROCK, she knows, is “a light in this school.”
Alfarano is pleased with the turnout and success of the club, and she credits the school community for helping get +he ROCK on firm footing.
“The students have been supportive, and the group is gaining momentum; parents, and teachers, are asking questions about it,” she said.
“It’s a positive thing.”
+he ROCK “meets the people where they are at in life, in this case the youth where they are at in high school,” said Janisse.
“Many students stop in, grab a snack, say hello and then have to leave for practice or a game or another meeting, shortly after the meeting begins. But they are there and they make the connection. Others stay for the whole meeting. It has served as ‘Youth Group’ at the high school and also branched out to evangelize to others.”