Tyrone Family Makes Catholic Faith a Priority While Sheltering in Place


By Tony DeGol

Board game nights have provided a lot of fun for the Castagnola family as they continue to shelter at home. Keeping the Catholic faith alive in the household, however, is serious business.

Like most families throughout the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Doug and Heather Castagnola and their three children are laying low these days.

Besides work for mom and dad (both are employed at American Eagle Paper Mill in Tyrone), the family routine has changed a lot over the past several weeks.

One of the biggest adjustments has been not attending Mass as usual at Saint Matthew Parish in Tyrone.

Fortunately, the gang takes advantage of technology to stay connected.

“We watch mass every Sunday morning either on television or Father Jozef’s Mass on our parish Facebook page,” Doug said.

He is referring to the Pastor of Saint Matthew, Father Jozef Kovacik. The parish is one of many in the diocese that live-streams Mass or posts a recorded liturgy on social media. In fact, Doug shares his time and talent by uploading the Mass for Father Kovacik and maintaining the parish’s Facebook page.

Doug is also a member of the Saint Gregory Council of the Knights of Columbus.

Indeed, faith is a big deal with the Castagnola clan, and that is not changing because of a quarantine.

The children, Derek, age 7, Lincoln, age 5, and Hailey, age 3, are blessed with parents who realize that this time of social distancing is not a time to separate from God.

“Holy Week was especially hard for me personally because the Easter Triduum is my favorite part of the liturgical year,” Doug explained. “After we watched Mass on Holy Thursday, we washed each other’s feet in our living room.”

Derek’s religious education classes at the parish are halted because of the pandemic, and Lincoln is supposed to begin classes in the fall.

“I’ve been trying to continue their religious education on my own by teaching them the parts of the Mass, teaching them basic prayers we say at Mass, and the importance of our faith,” Doug added.

As COVID-19 seems to dominate our world, the Castagnolas are savoring this family time. Besides games and puzzles, the gang has watched a lot of Disney movies in preparation for their upcoming Disney trip schedule for later this year – which they hope will still happen.

“We enjoy spending time outdoors and especially like taking nature walks where it is peaceful and we can admire the wonderful surroundings that God gave us,” Doug stated. “It also gives us the chance to reflect on His goodness and count our blessings.”

Editor’s Note: Families who wish to share their faith stories during this time of sheltering in place may e-mail Tony DeGol at tdegol@dioceseaj.org.

[Photos: The Castagnola family enjoys a board game night while sheltering in place (top); the family also enjoys nature walks during this time (first inset photo); and the Castagnola children wash each other’s feet on Holy Thursday (second inset photo).]