A year ago, Father Jacek Mazur, pastor of St. Mary of the Cataract and Divine Mercy Parishes in Niagara Falls, was looking for a program to reach the youth of his city parishes. He wanted it to be fun and faithful to the teachings of the Church. Father Mazur knew that many children were not getting much exposure to the faith, and this new youth ministry might be a "candle in the darkness."
With his new evangelization efforts, Father Mazur found not one, but two new youth programs: the Little Flowers for girls, and the Federation of North American Explorers for boys. Both programs are Catholic in philosophy, values and implementation. Both are relatively new to the diocese.
Each Federation of North American Explorers unit has its own name, and the local unit's name is the Niagara River Explorers.
The Niagara River Explorers is a Catholic outdoor adventure program which recently participated in a Mass at St. Mary of the Cataract Church. The program, for youth and young adults ages 7 to 24, meets at Divine Mercy Parish hall on Friday evenings from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The program is open to Christian youth of all denominations.
The meeting, which followed Mass, featured guest speaker Paul Ritchi of Toronto, the Federation of North American Explorers commissioner. Ritchi said that the FNE is a member movement of the Federation of Scouts and Guides of Europe which was started in 1956 and has units in 20 countries, including Canada and the United States. The Niagara Falls group is the first FNE unit in the Diocese of Buffalo, and the first in New York state.
The Federation of North American Explorers and its founding counterpart, the FSE, have received Vatican recognition as a Lay Association of the Pontifical Right. The goal of the FNE is to develop boys into men of Christian values, who can stand up in a culture that is often hostile to Christian values, men who know what the Gospel teaches, and who believe and practice their faith. While the culture may head down certain directions, the FNE holds fast to its Catholic faith.
Each FNE unit has a priest or chaplain who guides the explorers as they strive to become ordinary saints through the example of their fathers and leaders who are also striving to become ordinary saints.
The Niagara River Explorers was designed to develop fun, fitness and faith. The program heavily emphasizes outdoor skills, teamwork and Catholic devotions. Each meeting includes action games, leadership development and outdoor skills development.
The meetings end with a few minutes of devotions: the Divine Mercy Chaplet, Eucharistic adoration or meditation. Also, hikes, campouts and canoeing are vital parts of the program and summer activities include a two week summer camp and canoe trips in Ontario, accompanied by a priest who serves as chaplain and mentor.
For further information contact Father Jacek Mazur, Nicole Brier, Little Flowers leader, at 716-392-5563 or Dennis Darby, Niagara River Explorers leader, at 716-285-8737.