Mannequin challenge opens door to faith inquiries

 
Most people vividly remember the “ice bucket challenge” that raised more than $115 million for the fight against A.L.S. 
The new internet phenomenon is the Mannequin Challenge, where people stand still in a pose while being videotaped.
 
Claire Gallagher, St. Clement of Rome’s coordinator of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, organized an interesting take on the challenge. On Dec. 11, her CYO members posed in parts representing all seven Catholic sacraments: baptism, anointing of the sick, confession, Holy Matrimony, confirmation, Holy Orders and First Communion.
 
“If we are going to do it, it should be done with a purpose – some kind of message (and not just for fun),” Gallagher said.
 
When it was decided that the sacraments would be represented in church, Gallagher wanted to make it as realistic as possible, so she asked St. Clement pastor, Father Luis Rodriguez, to pose consecrating the Eucharist at first holy Communion. Deacon Robert Pendzimaz stood in for the baptism scene, and Deacon Jose Caceres filled the role of a priest anointing the sick.
 
Archbishop Gregory Aymond and Archbishop-emeritus Alfred Hughes joined in the fun, with Archbishop Aymond laying his hands on the head of a youth as a sign of ordination to the priesthood and Archbishop Hughes conferring the Holy Spirit at confirmation.

Before archbishops arrived
Since St. Clement’s Sunday youth meeting follows 5 p.m. Mass, Gallagher used the first meeting hour Dec. 11 to fill the roles and smooth kinks before the archbishops arrived at 7 p.m. Teens portraying the married couple were the only parts selected in advance – to ease awkwardness; everyone else volunteered for parts. The shy teens were pictured as praying in Mass.
 
“Once kids got into their positions, they started coming up with their own ideas,” she said. “It kind of naturally fell into place. By the time the archbishops got there, all we had to do was put them in place. … It really went smoothly.”
 
After a couple of run-throughs, it was videotaped for YouTube.
 
Jake Theriot, 17, a Jesuit High School junior who represents St. Clement of Rome on the archdiocesan Teen Cross, portrayed the father at baptism. His twin sister Virginia “Ginny” Theriot was the bride.
 
“Originally (Gallagher) asked me if I wanted to be ordained in that scene, but I was dressed nicely since I had just lectored at Mass, so she said I looked more like the dad, and I was happy to do that part,” Jake Theriot said.
 
It was the first time Jake had witnessed all the sacraments.
 
“So it was interesting for me to see the different ones, since I hadn’t been to an actual wedding or ordination in person,” Theriot said. “I think a lot of people want to see it. On many videos, you see sports teams, but I hadn’t seen any representing the seven sacraments. This is unique, so I think it will draw a lot of people in.”
 
As a CYO member, Jake said he’s gained insight into being Catholic. He has enjoyed sharing faith in small groups and attending Mass at the group’s winter retreat, and hearing presentations at meetings on “Theology of the Body.”

“(CYO) is a really good thing,” Theriot said. “It’s helped me make new friends and helped me learn about my faith.”
The mannequin challenge opened a lot of teen eyes on Dec. 11.

“In general I think it was a good experience,” Jake said. “And a lot of other members got something out of it. It was a good idea that I think could affect a lot of people.”

Gaining viewers, worshippers
St. Clement’s 7 Sacraments Mannequin Challenge on You Tube had more than 1,000 views on the first day, but that wasn’t the only interesting result. A new CYO member who had only experienced one sacrament – baptism – was the volunteer actor at the confessional with Father David Ducote.

“It was kind of cool that he was in there, and it sparked a conversation about confession and possibly other sacraments such as First Communion,” Gallagher said, adding how he said he could now understand why reconciliation is a good thing.

Gallagher also heard one CYO member who hadn’t been baptized, jokingly say, “You could baptize me.”

“It’s interesting to know we are bringing young people in (to CYO) who are not fully initiated in the church yet but are here and showing an interest,” Gallagher said.

This wasn’t the first time St. Clement’s CYO created a video with teens. At the winter retreat, the teens made a music video based on the retreat theme of “Putting Your Faith in Action.”

“In trying to stay relevant with their generation and the things that keep them engaged, I am always trying to find ways of bringing the reality of their life into their faith,” Gallagher said.

She thinks the mannequin challenge allowed them to share their faith and start a conversation about it with others.

“It actually came out really well,” she said. “It is getting around. It’s kind of exciting.”

Visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ah0GEM7OGOs to watch the challenge.

Christine Bordelon can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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