September 13, 2013

Murder mystery and ‘moo-ving experience’ are among offbeat ideas helping teens raise NCYC funds

Megan Gehrich, left, plays the role of the Fairy Godmother and Ashley Rutherford depicts Cruella De Vil in a scene from a murder mystery dinner show at St. Mary Parish in Greensburg that raised $1,500 to help teenagers attend the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis on Nov. 21-23. (Submitted photo)

Megan Gehrich, left, plays the role of the Fairy Godmother and Ashley Rutherford depicts Cruella De Vil in a scene from a murder mystery dinner show at St. Mary Parish in Greensburg that raised $1,500 to help teenagers attend the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis on Nov. 21-23. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

As a cast of characters, it’s not a group that you would naturally see getting together for a good time.

It’s even harder to imagine that some of them would look beyond their own interests and challenges to help Catholic youths deepen their faith.

Yet sometimes fiction is stranger than truth.

So Sherlock Holmes and Cruella De Vil put aside their differences about good and evil. Juliet took time from gazing longingly at Romeo from a balcony. And Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella stopped focusing on a happy ending with a prince.

Add the Fairy Godmother and Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz into the mix and that unlikely group came together to form the characters in a murder mystery-dinner show that raised $1,500 for the youths of St. Mary Parish in Greensburg to attend the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) in Indianapolis on Nov. 21-23.

It’s just one of the fun and innovative fundraisers that Catholic youth groups across the archdiocese have developed to make it possible for their high school students to deepen their faith during a three-day event that brought together 23,000 Catholic teenagers from around the country in 2011.

“When we all first started talking about the endeavor of going to NCYC, the biggest concern was how much it cost,” says Megan Gehrich, youth ministry coordinator at St. Mary Parish in Greensburg, about the $215 registration fee and the additional expenses of hotels and meals for three days.

“Now when they’ll be going, they won’t have to fret about the financial aspect of it. They’ll just be able to immerse themselves in the whole experience. My biggest hope is that they will gain some sort of transformation—whether it’s a transformation of knowing themselves, a transformation of their relationship with God, or a transformation of their life in general.”

Besides the murder mystery-dinner show, the St. Mary youth group used a cookout, a breakfast and a sponsorship program to cover all the costs—except for the $100 each deposit fee—for the 11 youths and six chaperones attending the conference.

“I was in my office when I realized everyone’s registration fee had been paid off, and I just had tears in my eyes,” Gehrich says. “I was absolutely blown away.”

Pink flamingos and cows have helped the youths of St. Mark and St. Roch parishes in Indianapolis raise money to attend the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis on Nov. 21-23. St. Mark teenagers placed flocks of flamingoes in people’s yards as birthday greetings and good-natured pranks while St. Roch youths achieved the same effects with a herd of cows. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

Pink flamingos and cows have helped the youths of St. Mark and St. Roch parishes in Indianapolis raise money to attend the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis on Nov. 21-23. St. Mark teenagers placed flocks of flamingoes in people’s yards as birthday greetings and good-natured pranks while St. Roch youths achieved the same effects with a herd of cows. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

The youth group at St. Roch Parish in Indianapolis had a different moving experience in their unusual fundraiser for the national conference. In fact, they describe their effort as a “moo-ving experience” because it involved setting up “cow” signs in people’s yards under the cover of darkness as a surprise.

For 31 nights in August, at more than 150 locations, the youth group placed the cow signs in people’s yards as birthday greetings, wedding wishes and good-natured pranks—raising $2,600 in the process.

“People would do it for their friends, their families or neighbors,” says Kellie Hammans, a parent volunteer for youth ministry at St. Roch. “After we set it up in the yard at night, people would get an e-mail saying, ‘Surprise! You’ve been cowed. Your friends thought it would be udderly hilarious for you to receive the herd.’ ”

Once someone received the herd, they were invited to “moo-ve” (the bad puns just keep coming) the “stampede” along to a friend’s or neighbor’s yard. Donations ranged from $10 to $500 for the next cattle drive.

Hammans admits borrowing the idea from the youth group at St. Mark Parish in Indianapolis, which used a promotion of a yard full of pink flamingos as a fundraiser for NCYC in the spring.

“A lot of people thought it was fun to have a fundraiser that was more than a bake sale,” says Hammans, whose group also had a bake sale that raised $1,300. “One of the surprising things that came out of the signs was the chance to evangelize. My phone number was on some of the signs, and people would call me and ask about it. And I’d tell them all about NCYC.”

Then there was the night when three tough-looking young people approached some of the 21 St. Roch youths, who will be attending the national conference, as they were putting up cow signs in a yard.

“They stopped and asked, ‘What’s up with all these cows?’ ” Hammans says. “The kids explained what it was—a youth group, church fundraiser to go to a national convention. And one of the three said, ‘We’ve never heard of a church doing something fun.’ ”

Fun was also one of the main focal points of the murder mystery dinner show at St. Mary Parish in Greensburg.

“My friend Luke Lecher owns a theater production company in Greensburg, and he’s one of the chaperones for the NCYC trip. He asked, ‘What if we wrote a murder mystery show as a fundraiser?’ ” Gehrich recalls.

“I loved the idea. We got our youths and chaperones as the characters for the show. They had about 10 rehearsals at about two hours each. It was a lot of fun. I’m so excited we did it.”

That same sense of enthusiasm shines through at St. Paul Parish in Tell City, where the youth group added an innovative touch to an old fundraising effort.

The teenagers held a car wash during the parish’s three Masses, advertising the fundraiser with the slogan, “While you are praying, we are spraying!”

The car wash netted about $900, adding to the money earned from a chicken dinner, a spaghetti supper and a bake sale.

“You get the best business when people are in church,” says Benedictine Sister Mary Emma Jochum, the parish’s director of religious education. “We do not expect our youth to pay the full price of NCYC because they couldn’t afford it, and they’d have to say no. Perry County is a low-income county.”

There’s another challenge to overcome.

“There is no Catholic school in the Tell City Deanery,” she says. “Our high school youth get one hour a week of religious education on Sunday nights compared to getting it five days a week in a Catholic school.”

That’s why the fundraisers are so important for the seven youths from St. Paul Parish who will attend the national conference. Sister Mary Emma’s goal for them is similar to the goal that other youth leaders have for the nearly 1,500 youths from across the archdiocese who are expected to attend.

“At NCYC, they’ll see in more depth what the Catholic faith means to their lives,” she says. “They’ll be surrounded by a total Catholic conference. That’s important for them. We want our kids to experience as much of the Catholic faith as they can.”
 

(For more information about the National Catholic Youth Conference, log on to www.archindy.org/youth/ncyc.html.)

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