MEMBERS OF THE peer leadership group at Immaculate Conception, who also participate in the post-confirmation group.
MEMBERS OF THE peer leadership group at Immaculate Conception, who also participate in the post-confirmation group.
"Do you believe happiness is found or made?"

"Describe, in three words, how your parents would see you."

"If you could proclaim one statement to the world, what would it be?"

Each month, a group of high school seniors gathers at Immaculate Conception parish in Glenville to discuss questions like these. They ponder their future, their careers and their faith.

The group brings together young people who were recently confirmed, but want the opportunity to keep meeting with friends from the faith formation program.

"We wanted something where we weren't learning and reading from a Bible, but discussing everyday stresses in life and how God plays into that," explained Samuel Nally, a senior at Burnt Hills High School.

Christine Goss, Immaculate Conception's youth minister, leads the senior program. It's existed since she began working at the parish 15 years ago, but, after a hiatus last year, it was almost cancelled for good. Interest from confirmandi kept it going.

Bring it back
Samuel said that, after he was confirmed last year, he missed being able to hang out with friends in his confirmation class. A number of them attended Niskayuna High School or Scotia High, not his school. Samuel remembered the program for seniors at his parish and thought, "Let's start it up again."

"If I hadn't gotten a message from Sam, I wouldn't have initiated it," Mrs. Goss told The Evangelist.

With some help from Sidney Krawiecki, a fellow confirmand and Burnt Hills senior, the senior program restarted in December. The group typically meets on Sundays around 7 p.m., but the day and time changes based on everyone's availability. This year, a core group of eight to 10 seniors attends each meeting.

Sidney said the group is tight-knit. Members sometimes meet for dinner before heading to the parish center.

"I love them," she said. "There are not a lot of kids in my grade [at Burnt Hills] who have a strong faith. So many kids think prayer is un-cool, so it's nice to go here."

"It's not just for kids going to Immaculate Conception," Samuel added. "It's for any senior that wants [a] place to talk about things, debate and discuss their faith."

At the last meeting, he invited a few Burnt Hills High friends who were not confirmed at Immaculate Conception.

Let's talk
Mrs. Goss tries to have a theme for each meeting: for example, morality or the future. The group chats about everyday life, school, sports and their upcoming proms.

Mrs. Goss said her role is to help guide the discussion toward faith and God, and offer her insights: "I throw a topic out there and it will lead into talking for an hour and a half. This year, the group is very faith-based."

More serious group discussions cover how faith can play into the young Catholics' time at college and their careers. At one meeting, the group played a question-and-answer game to discuss what makes people feel alone or apart from others.

"That felt important to me," Samuel said. "I felt that was something important to share with people."

Sidney said the group also talks about partying and about balancing what they want to do with what it means to be Catholic Christians.

Getting to talk to friends her age about choices like this has helped her, she said.

"There are so many decisions, and I don't know what the answers will be for things like college decisions, peer pressure or sitting with people at lunch," she said. "I lost [friendships with] people I used to hang out with, and talking with [the group] has helped me."

Forming faith
At one meeting, Mrs. Goss had the group perform a popular "lifeboat" game about ethics. They were presented with a list of characters trapped on a sinking ship: a single mother, a paraplegic, a cocaine addict, a girl with HIV, a medical genius working on a cure for cancer, a teenager on probation for theft and others. Only a handful could fit on the lifeboat. The group had to decide who to save and why.

"It brings about discussion of morals, of what is right and what is wrong, even if there's no 'right answer,'" said Samuel.

The senior program runs until the end of the school year. Samuel plans to stay in the area after graduation to work in his family's landscaping business and take business courses at Schenectady County Community College. His dream is to own a coffee shop.

Sidney is unsure of where she'll be attending college. Her top school is Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, where she hopes to study medical illustration.

Regardless of where they end up, the two teens said they'll keep in touch with their peers in the Immaculate Conception senior program.

"It's a small group, so you get a lot closer," said Samuel. "And I know I'll be friends with some of them for the rest of my life."