Family reunion: Northwest Deanery resumes Youth and Family Worship Nights
WINDTHORST — The recent gathering of youth from 11 Northwest Deanery parishes for the first time since spring 2020 had the feel of a family reunion.
Gathering for the Northwest Deanery Youth and Family Worship Night, teens and their families greeted each other with smiles, hugs, and laughter while enjoying lawn games, dinner, and music by praise and worship band Veritas.
“We decided to have something where the praise band could come together, and the kids could come together and just have fun. They could eat, blow off some steam, and enjoy each other’s company before school started,” said Cheyenne Marrinan, Coordinator of Youth and Young Adult Ministry at Holy Family of Nazareth Church in Vernon, St. Joseph Church in Crowell, and St. Mary Church in Quanah.
This is not the first time Marrinan and Shelley Schlumpf, youth minister for St. Boniface Church in Scotland and St. Mary Church in Windthorst, have organized an event for Northwest Deanery youth.
In 2007, Marrinan, Father Stephen Berg (now bishop of Pueblo, CO) and Dr. Robert Parkey, pitched the idea to other youth ministers in the Northwest Deanery for a monthly youth Mass followed by fellowship at different locations in the deanery. Schlumpf was the first youth minister to offer a location, St. Mary in Windthorst, for the event.
Marrinan and Schlumpf, as well as youth and families present at the reunion Aug. 1 in Windthorst, all expressed their joy in being able to finally have a large gathering in person after the shutdown because of COVID.
“We’re used to having monthly deanery Masses with fellowship. And in two years we haven’t been able to do that,” Schlumpf said.
Marrinan said the original idea for the deanery youth Masses and fellowship events came from youth ministers wanting to create a stronger Catholic community in a rural area where the only time they saw each other was as rivals on football fields.
“Now when a team in our deanery is at a playoff game, our whole Catholic community shows up to support (no matter what school they attend). They have become such a support for one another. They just love one another,” Marrinan said.
Bryanna McRae, 17, her sister Mercedes McRae, 18, and Reina Quilodran, 17, said they all wanted to attend the Northwest Deanery Youth and Family Worship Night because they haven’t been able to gather with Catholic teens from other parishes in the deanery since COVID-19 hit. They all attend Holy Family of Nazareth Church in Vernon.
“It just felt good to go back out again with all these churches together,” Quilodran said.
For about an hour, youth and many families listened to Veritas at first from their chairs. Then, as the music became livelier with songs such as “Glorious Day” and “My Lighthouse,” the youth and families clapped and danced to the songs. By the end of music set, the group had formed a huge circle and held hands during the songs “Reckless Love” and “Hold Us Together.”
“Veritas is our name, which means ‘The Truth’ in Latin. One of our praise band kids came up with that name many years ago,” said Sherri Syptak, who has been leading the group for more than 20 years.
She said they have frequently played at different parishes during Northwest Deanery Youth Masses and events over the years.
“God has just blessed us through the years that we had the musicians we needed. Some people have come back,” Syptak said. “It’s just been amazing to see the kids blossom and flourish. Most of the time they’re back in their church leading worship as well. You know, we’ve got to empower our children.”
Syptak said Jessica Lane, a parishioner of Sacred Heart Church in Seymour, is one of the youths who has grown up and then returned to play piano for Veritas.
Lane brought her mom, her husband, and her twin sons, born in March 2020, because this was her first opportunity to introduce her fellow band members to her boys.
“I’m really excited. I’ve been involved in church stuff for years. I’ve gone from being in high school to going to college to getting married and having kids,” Lane said. “So, it’s nice to see the evolution and get to share that with everybody.”