Gryffin Salamone receives a check from Sister Mary Jo Tallman, CSJ, the parish life director at Blessed Sacrament. (Provided photo)
Gryffin Salamone receives a check from Sister Mary Jo Tallman, CSJ, the parish life director at Blessed Sacrament. (Provided photo)
The idea just popped into Gryffin Salamone’s head.

Gryffin and his family attend Blessed Sacrament Church in Mohawk, which is part of a new pastoral network in the northwest part of the Diocese of Albany.
When the trustees and parish leaders of the pastoral network — which also includes Sts. Anthony and Joseph in Herkimer, St. Francis De Sales in Herkimer and St. John the Baptist in Newport — came up with the idea to rename their new cluster of churches, Gryffin, at the ripe young age of 10, thought the pastoral network should be centered around the idea of the cross.

“Actually there was barely any (thought at all),” Gryffin said, correcting the reporter, “it just popped into my head.”

Sister Mary Jo Tallman, CSJ, the parish life director at Blessed Sacrament, said Gryffin’s idea was the first suggestion she received and it made perfect sense.

“When we had a meeting of the parish trustees and the parish leaders, it came up that we should try to come up with a fun way to get people involved by putting a name to the network, rather than just calling it a pastoral network,” Sister Mary Jo said. “We wanted to be more creative and really reflect the people’s ideas. We put it out to our respective parishes and I am happy to say that Blessed Sacrament really came forward with a lot of suggestions, but Gryffin’s was the first one that came to me.

“He talked to me about it and he came up with the Holy Cross because he said there are four points of the cross representing the four parishes and I thought that was pretty insightful,” Sister Mary Jo said. “We brought the various names to the next trustees’ meeting and it was unanimous that we wanted to be called the ‘Family of the Holy Cross.’ ”

His parents, Sam Salamone and Leslie Kubica, were overjoyed.

“I am super proud,” Leslie said. “When Sister Mary Jo suggested it and said this is a thing, we want your ideas, he came up with it and said, ‘What about this mom and dad?’ And we said we are going to have to tell her and said that is a great idea. ... Every time she mentioned Gryffin’s name, he was so excited and a little bit embarrassed.” 

Leslie was equally impressed that the newly-formed pastoral network wanted to include all four parishes in the contest.

“It was really nice when Gryffin found out that he won and it feels nice to be part of something. The fact that at his age he did that and they chose his, it really opened that ownership for him too and us as well,” Leslie said. “It was just nice that Sister Mary Jo and the pastoral network decided to reach out to the people of the churches because they could have just named it themselves.”

Along with winning the contest, came a $100 donation to the winner’s charity of choice. That again was an easy decision for Gryffin. The donation would go to the Golisano Children’s Hospital in Rochester, specifically the Allergy and Immunology Department, which is treating Gryffin’s brother, Hugo, 6, for extreme allergies.

“He is a very mature kid,” Sister Mary Jo said. “He is 10, but they are very faithful churchgoers. They are there every week. Leslie sings in the choir, Sam is a lector and Eucharistic minister; the church is a big part of their lives.”

And Blessed Sacrament is a place where Sam, a teacher at Little Falls High School, and Leslie, a music teacher in Dolgeville, and their sons can recharge and re-center their lives.

“We go every week and it is a source of calm in our busy days,” Leslie said. “My husband and I are both teachers and Gryffin and his little brother are students, and life gets kind of crazy especially with the pandemic … Now that we get to go (to church in person) again it is a source of calm in this crazy life. Once we get there, we all enjoy it very much.”