Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Chewelah family takes ‘Know, Love and Serve’ to heart, daily

by Brandon Hanson, for the Inland Register

(From the August 18, 2016 edition of the Inland Register)

The Spokane Diocese’s Know, Love and Serve initiative finds fruit in the Larsen family of Chewelah. Pictured, from left: Father Jeff Lewis, pastor of the parishes in Chewelah, Springdale, and Valley; Michael Larsen; Paul Larsen; Mattia Antinori, the Larsens’ Italian exchange student for the 2015-2016 school year); and Lori Larsen. (IR photo courtesy of Father Lewis)

After spring’s round of high school graduations, the Larsens are saying goodbye to their oldest son, Michael, as he begins a new chapter in his life. The family of seven from St. Mary of the Rosary Parish in Chewelah have kept the Catholic Church’s teachings at the core of their philosophy in raising their children in the small town of 2,600. Michael is a shining example of how a kid can become engaged in youth ministry and parish involvement.

Michael Larsen will be headed to Carroll College in Helena, Mont., after graduating from Jenkins High School in Chewelah as salutatorian. Larsen is also an Eagle Scout, a member of the SPHYRE Club (Students Promoting Healthy Youth Relationships) and plays viola for the Spokane Youth Symphony.

Got all that? Good, because there’s more. Parents Paul and Lori have taken the Spokane Diocese’s “Know Love and Serve” pastoral plan to heart, wanting their children to be heavily involved in the local parish. They’ve focused on decompartmentalizing faith from just something to do on Sunday.

“We wanted our kids not to just be there but also be an active part of Mass and in the church community,” Paul Larsen, who is a doctor in the Chewelah community, said.

Both Paul and Lori are heavily involved in the parish’s youth group, which was restarted four years ago by Father Jeff Lewis, St. Mary’s pastor, and has since grown to an average attendance of 20 youth, including some from outside the Catholic faith. Michael has been in the youth group all four years, he’s also been an altar server at Mass since just after his First Communion, and more recently he was the youth representative on the St. Mary of the Rosary parish pastoral council.

“It was cool to see the inner workings of the parish and I felt my input was valued and I was really listened to by the other parish council members,” Michael said. “I enjoyed learning new things about this parish I’ve been a part of all my life.”

Michael and the Larsens have followed the pastoral plan, working with fellow parishioners to make the parish more welcoming to newcomers. In the youth group, they’ve broken up activities into 45-minute segments with things such as human foosball, dodgeball, sardines, ultimate frisbee and capture the flag.

This sort of fun mixes with learning new prayer devotions, having youth group-led Masses, and serving the community with examples like helping the nearby Holy Ghost Parish serve a St. Patrick’s Day meal, and work at the House of Charity in Spokane.

“You try to have a healthy balance of learning, prayer and fun,” Father Lewis said. “We feel we do a good job keeping activities varied and keeping kids engaged.”

The youth group has overcome several obstacles a small town might present. Since most kids are from one school, the cliques and groups that form there might carry over to youth group. Father Lewis, the Larsens, and other youth group volunteers have worked hard to make things more welcoming for everyone. Michael has seen the good attendance and attitude at the St. Mary’s youth group and has taken a lot away from it.

“I don’t see many people other than the time at youth group,” Michael said. “And in that setup we have kept friendships alive and it fosters a sense of community within the Catholic identity even though we might have separate interests in school and out of church.”

Michael has carried his Catholic faith into different aspects of his life. He was one of the first Boy Scouts in the area, along with three other Scouts from the St. Mary Parish, to earn a Scouting religious emblem. In new coordination between the church and the Scouts, Father Lewis and the Larsens were able to help the boys explore their religion for the emblem.

It’s easy to see that Michael is busy – something the youth group sees a lot in the town of Chewelah.

“We have to scale back meetings in the spring because kids are so busy,” Father Lewis said. “This is a problem unique to Chewelah. Kids are doing theatre, music and sports. It’s a very active town.”

But what the parish, the Larsens, and the youth group have allowed the kids to be is active in their faith through all aspects of their lives.

(Brandon Hanson is a parishioner of St. Mary of the Rosary Parish, Chewelah.)

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