(AoftheAP) Go to any high school football or basketball game, and one thing you can count on witnessing is the troupe of cheerleaders – supporting the home team with exuberant cheers, and generating fan excitement with chants of “Go Team Go!”, and acrobatic flips, tosses and balancing acts.
And now members of St. Bacchanalia in Rogers City MI get to witness them too – before, during and after Mass, thanks to their new pastor, Fr Cale S. Thennick.
“Sure, having cheerleaders during Mass might be a bit unorthodox,” Fr Cale told AoftheA News, “but let’s remember – the Mass is about being joyful, about participating, about getting excited that we’re in the presence of the Lord. These cheerleaders – and I prefer to call them GIRMnasts, by the way – have done just that.
“Since adding the GIRMnasts, Mass attendance has increased by 20%. The Music Director has noticed that people are singing more. And over a dozen people told me they came back because the local non-denominational church they had been attending was boring by comparison. Which means we’re doing something right.”
The GIRMnasts – all girls, most of whom attend the local Catholic high school – have been assisting at Sunday masses the past four weeks, and for the most part, the parishioners have accepted them.
“They’ve helped me to focus on what’s going on,” said parishioner Errol Battiks. “Like just after the Holy Holy Holy bit, the cheerleaders shout out ’2-4-6-8, time to transubstantiate!’ Gets me psyched up.”
Summer Sault, a mother of four, likes the addition. “I haven’t had to nag my sons to come to Mass since Fr Cale started this.”
Not everyone has been happy with the GIRMnasts, though, and Fr Cale recognizes that. “I’ve had few complaints, ranging from ‘cartwheels in the sanctuary don’t look all that safe’, to ‘too many backflips during the processional’, to ‘you only have girls – why are you discriminating against the boys?’. That’s why I have set aside one Sunday mass as non-Girmnastic, for the people who have problems with them.”
Fr Cale has instructed the parish council to come up with ideas for a parish mascot, as well.
“Might help increase tithing,” he said. “Never know until you try.”