“Relig,” as the small youth organization is known, primarily serves Catholic teens in New Rochelle, but also welcomes young people from all religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. It’s motto: “Where Jesus comes first and people are special.”
Founded by Michael A. Tedesco around the concept of Church as community, the school offers religious instruction, Christian action, social justice, spiritual growth, athletics, and social development. Besides classes for students and a summer program for staff, it has hosted retreats, skate-a-thons, a Christmas gift collection for needy children, sports teams and tournaments, trips to Broadway shows and apple picking.
Each school year ends with a graduation Mass and supper.
Tedesco, a pioneer in youth ministry, believed teens possessed value and relevance in the Church and community but were being offered little in the way of Christian growth, “Relig” says. So he started the school in 1965 in the basement of his Mayflower Avenue home. “Relig” has since moved its offices to 112 Division St., where students and faculty find it a safe haven to discuss life, religion, politics and friendship.
Tedesco retired as director in 1990, but remains on its board of directors and is its treasurer. He continues to serve the youth of New Rochelle and Westchester as the director of guidance at Westchester Hebrew High School in Mamaroneck.
Current director Tony Bellizzi says “Relig” continues to grow its message of faith and action through confirmation, classes, service trips to Peru and “random acts of kindness.”
It has -- so far -- impacted the lives of more than 3,000 people, Bellizzi says.
As part of its anniversary celebrations, “Relig” hosted gatherings at local restaurants where canned goods were collected for a local food pantry.
Other planned anniversary events and activities include: a car wash, a trip to see “Godspell” at the Westchester Dinner Theatre on July 10, an open house in August, a retreat in September, and a Mass and dinner on Oct. 3.
For more information, or to participate in the upcoming events, see the organization’s Facebook page, Relig 50th anniversary, or email it at Relig50th@gmail.com.
Click here to follow Daily Voice New Rochelle and receive free news updates.