Area Youths Bring Welcoming the Pope Into the Video Age

By Meghan Tierney
Gazette Staff Writer
Thursday, March 20, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI is used to being greeted with bows and with kisses to his ring, but Catholic youths in Montgomery County are preparing to welcome him to the nation's capital in a more modern way -- with original videos.

The Catholic youth groups with the most creative two-minute videos honoring the pope's historic visit will win 15 tickets each to his April 17 Mass at Nationals Park in Washington. Youngsters from the Archdiocese of Washington, the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Diocese of Arlington are participating in the contest. The winning entries, which will be announced April 2, might be played before the audience at Mass.

"It's a really unique opportunity for our young people, and they're getting really creative," said Krystyn Schmerbeck, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington. "It's really a very historic trip in a lot of ways, so we really want our young people to get excited."

Benedict will be making his first visit to the United States next month and will celebrate his 81st birthday while here. The last papal trip to the United States was in 1999, when Pope John Paul II visited St. Louis. The last visit by a pope to the nation's capital was in 1979.

The deadline for video entries was Monday, so youth groups were busy putting on their finishing touches last week.

"The nice thing is that we're close enough to the city that it's possible," said Donna Miller of Boyds, who helped organize the entry produced by students in grades two through 12 at St. Mary's Catholic Church and Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Barnesville. Their video is about a country church preparing for the pope's visit and hoping he will go off the beaten path and pay them a visit.

"We're so far removed out here -- in God's country, as we call it," Miller said with a laugh.

Other groups entering the video contest include St. Jude Catholic School in Rockville, the St. Rose of Lima Children Love Christ Choir in Gaithersburg and a group of county home-schooled students, said Kathy Dempsey, another Archdiocese of Washington spokeswoman.

The young people from St. Mary's spent an afternoon last week on their video, making signs, writing out cue cards and practicing lines. The older students acted out brief skits while the younger ones recited prayers.

Six fourth-graders taped their parts while standing in front of the red-brick church, fighting to read the paper cue cards flapping in the light breeze and pausing when a car drove by. They held vases of flowers and a big yellow sign that read, "Welcome Holy Father."

In their skit, they talked about all the things they could do to greet the pope but eventually acknowledged that he would never go all the way out to Barnesville.

"You never know," said Andrew Bacas, 10, of Barnesville, in conclusion. "You gotta have faith."

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