“I lose a quarter of my parish every year” when students graduate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said Rev. Edward Kacerguis, pastor of Christ Sun of Justice parish, which is located on RPI’s campus in Troy.

Then, in the fall, “we gain a quarter of the parish” back when new students arrive.

Because of that seasonal change, Christ Sun of Justice is gearing up for back-to-school time with its annual parish membership renewal.

Every September, the parish sends out a renewal form, asking parishioners to update their commitment for the upcoming year. The form has been a part of Christ Sun of Justice since its inception, and is yet another quintessential aspect of an already unique church.

Christ Sun of Justice parishioners worship in RPI’s historic Chapel and Cultural Center. Father Kacerguis said the parish takes in a large number of RPI students each year as parishioners. On an average weekend, 700 people attend Mass; approximately 300 of them are students. As students graduate or faculty members move on, the parish renewal form helps keep track of parishioners for the coming year.

Father Kacerguis said the parish tries to accommodate its large student population with fun holiday events like an annual Halloween party and offers a Sunday-night Mass.

The renewal is also equally important to the non-student population. Approximately 185 families are a more permanent part of Christ Sun of Justice, and the numbers of local Catholics joining the parish has increased steadily each year.

Deacon Joseph Romand, who serves at Christ Sun of Justice, noted that the parish sends out two different renewal forms: one for families and one for RPI students. Parish leaders understand that families are more likely to stay in the area and hope that the renewal form will remind steady parishioners to participate in the Church and provide a financial commitment.

“It’s a recommitment to provide gifts God gives us to the parish, in terms of time and talent,” Deacon Romand said of the renewal form.

Along with each form, the parish also includes a copy of its mission statement and a list of volunteer opportunities available for parishioners. Deacon Romand said he’s seen families who “haven’t done anything before” in the parish sign up to be greeters or eucharistic ministers after the parish membership forms are sent out.

The annual renewal is more than just an update on membership, said Father Kacerguis. It’s “a renewal of commitment to parish, its mission and its ministry.” Parishioners and students are also sent a calendar of upcoming programs at Christ Sun of Justice.

Neither Father Kacerguis nor Deacon Romand was aware of other parishes in the Albany Diocese that practice annual parish membership renewal, but encouraged others to try the idea.

“We come together and reaffirm our commitment to ministry,” said Deacon Romand. “This could be something any parish could do.”