CLASP Teens Bringing Old Testament Story of Ruth to Stage

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Ryan Greco finds the Catholic Literature and Arts Summer Program (CLASP) a good way to enjoy his two passions. The parishioner of St. Denis in Hopewell Junction is one of about two dozen high school and middle school students participating in CLASP’s production of “Ruth: A Musical Witness to Love” at Capuchin Youth & Family Ministries (CYFM) in Garrison Saturday, Aug. 3.

“I wanted to put my love of Christ and theater together,” Greco, 18, told CNY. “I’m very excited to be working with people I’ve met and haven’t met. I just joined CYFM with the senior retreat back in May and I really enjoyed everything…So I wanted to get more involved and I really love singing and acting as a whole.”

This is CLASP’s second production written by Father Erik Lenhart, O.F.M. Cap. Last year’s show, “Solanus: Blessed in America, The Story of Blessed Solanus Casey, O.F.M. Cap.” drew a capacity crowd of 300 people. As a result, a 2 p.m. show was added to the 7 p.m. performance of this year’s production.

“People think I’m crazy,” Father Lenhart said. “How do you do a whole new show in a week? You just do it. I’m a ‘why not’ kind of person. We did it last year and it was a great success. In my opinion, it’s impossible to fail because we’re not doing it for ourselves; we’re doing it for the Lord.

“As talented as (our campers) are, our goal is to deepen faith. The theater stuff is important but it’s secondary to deepening our faith and their faith together.”

This year’s production, based on the Book of Ruth in the Old Testament, tells the story of the friendship between Ruth and her mother in-law Naomi. After the deaths of their husbands, Naomi encouraged Ruth to remain in her homeland of Moab. Ruth instead chooses to travel with Naomi to Naomi’s native Bethlehem. Ruth later meets Boaz, and the two are married.

“What was refreshing to me is seeing young people so devout in their faith and so willing to embrace the stories and lessons we have to teach them,” said Emilia Lynch, the director of the musical and a parishioner of Christ the King in Wethersfield, Conn.

Tabitha Posada, 17, is back for her second CLASP production.

“The feeling of the people around me, there was so much love,” said Tabitha, a parishioner of Our Lady of Fatima in Plattekill. “They were really inspired to do something so amazing for God. I loved the way it made my heart feel.

“If you haven’t been to CYFM, you should come because it’s so beautiful when you enter and you can tell the love everyone has for one another.”

McKenzie Malcolm, a 17-year-old parishioner of St. Columba in Hopewell Junction, said staging a production in one week’s time has helped the cast “bond into a family.”

Becca Bendell, a 16-year-old parishioner of St. Joseph in New Paltz, is a newcomer to CLASP as well as to acting and singing before an audience.

“I’m completely out of my comfort zone. I’m really excited to see how it goes,” said Becca, who saw the production last summer. “I’ve been coming to CYFM for a few years now. I love the community here and the friends you make in the love of Christ.”

Hugo Ramirez, 16, said participating in CYFM programs, including CLASP, has helped him meet people and deepen his faith.

“This entire concept really appeals to me,” said Hugo, a parishioner of Sacred Heart in Hartsdale. “It’s getting together with all the friends you made last year, and seeing some new faces and guiding them through the entire process. Seeing the entire community’s creative energy get put into a great production warms my heart. It keeps me coming back.

“This retreat center has so many great programs to get involved in your faith. After I did my first retreat here, I learned more about myself and more about God. I feel a real connection.”

Father Lenhart is hoping his Catholic theater will spread beyond CLASP’s summer production. Last month, Father Lenhart took the theater to Camp Veritas at Mount St. Mary College in Newburgh for a “Franciscan Revue,” which combined new material with some used in last year’s CLASP production about Blessed Solanus Casey.

“I’d like to (do it again),” said Father Lenhart of working with Camp Veritas campers.

“My hope is some of the theater stuff will start to catch on. High schools, middle schools and parishes can do this. Some stories need to be told. Ruth’s story is one of those stories. It’s beautiful and inspiring.”

Tickets: $10 in advance, $15 at the door. To order: https://capuchin.org/cyfm/ or (845) 424-3609.

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