St. Joseph’s Catholic Choir in Sandpoint has a musical trinity. It comes in the form of matriarch Marilyn Wooden; her daughter, Cheryl Piehl; and Cheryl’s daughter, Francie.
Through singing and praying, they agree their relationship is harmonious in more ways than one. Last Saturday, 38-year-old Cheryl broke into tears and embraced her mother before a religious music seminar.
Participants standing nearby asked what was wrong. “Nothing … I’m happy,” she said. “I can’t believe all these people are coming to our little parish.”
Marilyn suggested the session after observing composer and musician Jaime Cortez transform the spirit and the music in her winter parish in Arizona. Having assisted her mother in planning, fretting and tending to organizational details, Cheryl was overcome with relief that St. Joseph’s first-ever liturgical music seminar had been a success.
Almost 60 Catholic musicians from parishes in Canada, Western Montana, Eastern Washington and the Idaho Panhandle attended the daylong program led by Cortez.
Virtually all went away inspired by what they learned.
A dream had become reality for Cheryl’s mother, and plans are unfolding for another seminar next year. Marilyn received the full support of her parish priest, Dennis Day, and choir colleagues, including the two family members who stand beside her, singing every Sunday at St. Joseph’s 8:30 Mass.
Marilyn and Cheryl joined the group in the early 1970s. Francie, 17, began her choir participation in grade school after years of sitting beside her mom playing with dolls while Cheryl strummed her guitar and sang.
Besides a mutual love for religious music, all three women treasure the relationship they enjoy through participation in the choir.
“It’s probably the proudest thing of my life because my church means so much to me and they mean so much to me,” Marilyn, 59, said. “I couldn’t have a better friend (in Cheryl)…Francie’s faith is so phenomenal; she’s an inspiration.”
Cheryl, mother of three and deputy treasurer for Bonner County, began singing in seventh-grade choir. After learning to play the guitar from her older sister, Kim, she received guidance from St. Joseph’s choir director June Hofmeister, who died in 1974.
She has remained with the church choir ever since, except for two months when the Piehls built their home. Marilyn joined the choir after Hofmeister’s death because “Cheryl couldn’t do it alone.”
She beamed last week when Jaime Cortez described her daughter and granddaughter as two of the most beautiful people he had ever met.
Francie, a dedicated Sandpoint High cross-country runner, helped with registration last Saturday. She also participated and thought the seminar was “pretty neat.”
“I could really relate to it because I’ve seen what we go through in the music ministry,” she said.
Francie helps her mother select music for Sunday Mass. Although Creedence Clearwater and the Beatles rank among her favorite musical groups, a Catholic hymn called “Servant Song” expresses her most cherished beliefs.
“What do you want of me Lord? Where do you want me to serve you?” the lyrics ask.
“Where can I sing your praises? I am your song.” Francie views the hymn as her guide. “It always makes me remember who I’m really doing this for and what really matters in life.”
, DataTimes MEMO: Marianne Love is journalism adviser for Sandpoint High School and an author who lives in Sandpoint. Panhandle Pieces appears every Saturday. The column is shared among several North Idaho writers.
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