Twenty-two youths and 10 volunteers in the Catholic Literature & Arts Summer Program (CLASP) completed a week of faith and fun with the performance of three musicals for more than 100 people in the dining hall at Graymoor Aug. 14.
CLASP is celebrating its fourth year and originated as a one-week retreat for the Capuchin Youth & Family Ministries in Garrison until the Capuchin Franciscans of the Province of St. Mary and the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement began jointly ministering retreats at Graymoor last year.
“The teens are so inspiring,” said Father Erik Lenhart, O.F.M. Cap., told CNY. “They’re young, alive and on fire for the Lord.”
Father Lenhart wrote two of the musicals, “Zacchaeus: A Short Musical” and “Carlo Acutis: Every Minute for God.” Acutis, an Italian who died of leukemia in 2006 at age 15, was beatified at a Mass in Italy last October and is one step from being canonized a saint.
“He was a regular kid,” said Brandon Perez, a 15-year-old parishioner of St. Kateri Tekakwitha in LaGrangeville who portrayed Blessed Carlo. “He liked video games and playing soccer, but found time to have a relationship with God and it meant more to him than any other things he did.”
Jeannie Sweeney, a parishioner of Annunciation and Our Lady of Fatima in Crestwood/Scarsdale, wrote and directed “Full of Grace,” which was performed the evening before the Feast of the Assumption on Aug. 15. In “Full of Grace,” a banquet feast with Mary’s family and friends was held to celebrate and honor Mary’s coronation in heaven as queen of heaven.
“I wanted to evangelize through the play and give teens the opportunity as young disciples in Christ to use theater as a platform,” she said. “Their faith is nourished and they’ve grown closer to God through their performance and daily activities we’re providing them.”
Naomi Chinas, a 17-year-old parishioner of St. Mary’s in Wappingers Falls, played St. Bernadette in “Full of Grace” during her second year with CLASP.
“It can be very challenging,” said Naomi of mounting a production in a week. “If people put their mind, heart and soul into really learning and practicing, it can be really good.”
Jonathan Gagnon, 19, was a member of the adult team and helped lead the stage crew. He said it was amazing how quickly the young people learned their lines.
“They’re really awesome kids and are having a great time,” said the parishioner of Most Holy Trinity in West Point.
Father Sam Fuller, O.F.M. Cap., a member of the retreat team, was witnessing CLASP for the first time.
“It’s all unique and quite extraordinary,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing how the community is forming and how they’re coming together in the plays. It's quite fun seeing it all come together.”
Deacon Tom Rich, T.S.A., a member of the retreat team at Graymoor, said he was inspired by the youths.
“They are not afraid to publicly show their faith,” he said. “They are very proud of their faith and parishes, and proud of who they are. It inspires me. You need to be here and see there is a future for the church with these people.
“They have a lot of fun but they are there to support each other. Your faith can be fun. They are having fun and I’m having fun watching them.”