Spreading the Lord’s message through music

Father Joseph Wallace, pastor of Notre Dame de la Mer Parish in Wildwood, stands with Fred and Joann Spiewak and two of their children, Leatrice and Fred, Jr.
Father Joseph Wallace, pastor of Notre Dame de la Mer Parish in Wildwood, stands with Fred and Joann Spiewak and two of their children, Leatrice and Fred, Jr.

The strum of a guitar, a choir singing, the organist orchestrating a dance with his fingers — ordinary music put in the hands of the right people can have an extraordinary effect. Visiting Notre Dame de la Mer Parish in Wildwood you are able to witness this effect before your eyes when the Spiewak family is there. For the Spiewaks, spreading the Lord’s message through music is a family affair.

Father Joseph Wallace, pastor, realizes the impact the family has on the parishioners. “The people love when they see the Spiewak family at one of our liturgies,” Father Wallace said. “They are always there and they are always ready to serve.”

The family centers their lives on their love for the Lord and sharing that love. Stewardship is simply a part of who they are.

“Stewardship is families who love their Catholic faith and give to their local Catholic community. From their time, talent and treasure the Spiewaks reflect that on every level,” Father Wallace said.

The heads of the family, Fred and Joann, were both raised Catholic and their passion is shared by their three children and four grandchildren.

When the family moved to Wildwood about 27 years ago, their ministry began. Joann would sing at Mass, Fred on the organ, and their son Dan served as an altar server. When their daughter Leatrice was born they brought her to church so their music could continue.

Along with being the organist, Fred serves on the parish finance committee. Joann works with the children’s choir, Christmas pageant, and sings at Mass.

During the parish’s summer program Joann leads about 150 children in music. At the end of the program there is a Mass where all of the children sing together. One of the songs was “Trading My Sorrows.”

“Just talking about it makes me smile. Every kid was excited to be shouting these words out,” Joann said. “Those moments are the moments you know you touched the children’s hearts and brought them closer to God.”

Leatrice, now 22, was born ready to sing. When she was 2 years old she stood next to her mom at Mass, grabbed the microphone, and belted out the songs with her parents during the liturgy that day. She has never looked back.

At Penn State she led the music group her junior year.

“I have learned to love God through my parents and going to church,” Leatrice said. “Singing and the church has just been such an amazing part of my life and it taught me to love God so much.”

One of her favorite things is singing with her 17-year-old brother, Fred Jr.

“Singing at church gives me a chance to sing with my little brother which I love. He is one of my best friends,” Leatrice said.

Father Wallace described Fred as a sort of parish celebrity.

“At Mass after Freddy sings a song he will just receive spontaneous applause,” Father Wallace said. “You’d think it was a 25-year-old man. His voice is so commanding and so trained.”

Father Wallace is not the only person who thinks so. Fred was asked to join an esteemed opera group as they traveled to Germany for an opera festival this past summer.

“I find whenever the Spiewak family is involved there is just a look of joy, fulfillment and contentment on their faces,” Father Wallace said. “I know that they are feeling that inner peace and goodness from giving of oneself.”

“We don’t do this to receive compliments about my family. We do it to create beautiful music that uplifts the parishioners,” Joann said.

She explained that the moments that matter are when someone tells her their music has brought them closer to God.

“Loving God and being disciples of God — it’s that simple,” Joann said. “We are just regular people trying to make the best of our lives.”

For more information on stewardship contact Deacon Russell Davis, Office of Stewardship, at 856-583-6102.