Megan Krisowaty's confirmation service project at St. Vincent de Paul parish in Cobleskill sprang out of visits to a nursing home.
Megan and her confirmation sponsor, her grandmother, noticed that a lot of disabled residents appeared uncomfortable and sore from inactivity, so Megan hand-sewed 10 lap pillows of foam and flannel, each embellished with a pocket.
The washable, 22-by-12-inch cushions can support the neck or back, prop up an achy body part or serve as book rests - "just a little comfort for everyone," said Megan, who's 16 and a junior at Cobleskill-Richmondville High School.
"It's kind of depressing in there," she noted. "And some people don't get visitors. I hope they'll just think of them more as a homey thing."
Megan recently made her confirmation and became a eucharistic minister along with her parents. "A lot of [ministers] had moved away," she explained. "I mostly just wanted to become more involved in the Church."
The teen has been part of her parish's youth ministry program for three years, caroling and making care packages for the homebound at Christmas and participating in conversations about hot topics like North America's newest saints or the priest shortage.
"It's given me more awareness of everything that's going on outside the parish," Megan said. On the vocations crisis, she noted: "I think some people are starting to abandon their faith, and we need people who are willing to give more. People have to know their faith and believe it and come forward."
Her generation has a crucial role: "I know that some people say we don't know anything because we're so young. But I feel like we could provide new ideas and new ways to help."
Megan is one of about 30 teens in her youth group, though she's found that many of her schoolmates are uninterested in religion.
"I feel like most people don't know that [God is there], and they're kind of lost right now," she said. "We should tell them that there is something else for you if you want it. If you ever needed someone, you could go to God. If you wanted to learn more about Him, you could go to Mass."
Megan said her own faith "helps me get through the day knowing there's someone else to turn to." That was especially true last year in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, which spared Megan's home but ruined the Central Bridge mobile homes her parents had planned on remodeling as part of their business.
"I just wanted to help them get through it," Megan said, adding that faith means "knowing that things happen to people, but they're able to pull through."
Outside of St. Vincent's, Megan does roadside cleanups with her school's environmental science club and plays for its varsity softball team. She's been in a 4-H Club since age five, helping with charitable collections and learning to sew, and has been riding and showing horses since she was seven. Megan and her current horse, Jack, will enter a new level next year; she expects this to be their "best year yet.
"I've learned a lot through riding horses," she said, describing the pain of giving up a horse that she's outgrown. "I've matured a lot.
"I've always loved horses," she continued. "They have their own personalities, and you need to be very, very patient with them. You get to almost put a part of yourself into them."
After high school, Megan hopes to be an artist or a novelist. She writes adventure stories for fun and enjoys art class. Her favorite creation is a plaster piece portraying a tree growing out of a tiled floor. "I thought it was kind of like how nature's been forgotten."