By Tony DeGol
When it comes to academic achievement and joyfully living the Catholic faith, three Tyrone siblings seem to exemplify the old adage about the apple not falling far from the tree.
Sarah Hoover graduated a few weeks ago as valedictorian of her Tyrone Area High School class. It was a huge milestone for her and an obvious source of pride for the entire Hoover family.
That pride, however, runs so much deeper.
Sarah followed in the footsteps of her two older sisters, Taylor and Emma, both of whom were also valedictorians of their TAHS graduating classes of 2017 and 2019 respectively.
Their parents, Adam and Lynda Hoover, do not have to look too far to understand their daughters’ educational success.
Lynda, herself, was the valedictorian of her Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School graduating class.
What a family tradition!
“I’m very proud,” assured Lynda of her accomplished children. “They’re very hard workers. They’re driven. It’s hard to stay focused, but they always did.”
There is another reason their parents are overjoyed.
“I’m far more proud of their love of God, though,” insisted Lynda. “That to me is the most important thing.”
As members of Saint Matthew Parish in Tyrone, Taylor, Emma, and Sarah – along with mom and dad – are fixtures in the liturgical and social life of the faith community.
The three young women are past altar servers, and they volunteer at the parish’s Vacation Bible School and Central PA Rodeo, which serves as a major fundraiser for Saint Matthew School.
For Taylor, a student at Penn State Altoona studying Accounting, her Catholic identity is key.
“God is very much a part of how I make decisions in life, and He definitely guides me every step of the way,” she assured. “Knowing Him helps me to be the best person I can be.”
Taylor is also currently engaged in an internship, of sorts, at the parish. She assists secretary Debbie Zakrzwski with tasks that include everything from finances to maintenance.
“Anything I ask Taylor to do, she does it, and she does more than I ask,” Zakrzwski said. “I just think it’s wonderful to see a family that takes the gifts that God gives them and uses them to help other people and help the parish. They’re just a very good and humble Catholic family.”
Emma, a Mechanical Engineering student, just finished two years at Penn State Altoona and will continue her education at the University Park campus this fall.
She credits the Lord for her academic triumphs.
“I know that none of this would be possible without God,” she reminded. “When I’m nervous or unsure of myself, I turn to God, and I know that with His help, I can do all things.”
Continuing the Nittany Lion tradition, Sarah is heading to Penn State Altoona this fall to study Nursing. The real pulse in her life is her relationship with the Lord.
“My parents have engrained how important faith is, and over time, you start to realize that it is important, and if you don’t pray and you don’t have religion in your life, you start drifting away from who you are,” she remarked. “Having faith in my life has helped me realize who I want to be. It has helped me become so successful in life so far.”
For many reasons, Father Jozef Kovacik, Pastor of Saint Matthew, regards the Hoover family as a blessing to the parish.
It is refreshing for a priest to see youth and young adults like Taylor, Emma, and Sarah immerse themselves in their faith. Lynda volunteers with the parish’s Religious Education program, and in recent years, Adam converted to the Catholic faith.
“I think it was because of the witness that he saw in his own daughters and wife,” Father Kovacik theorized. “They’re really a good example of what a Christian, Catholic family should be.”
The Hoover siblings also symbolize something important for the Church universal, Father added.
“When parishioners see these young people practicing their faith, they look to the future with hope,” he stated.
For the Hoover siblings, that future includes them continuing – and even strengthening – their bond with Jesus Christ.
“I want to be open to God’s Word and where He wants me to go with my life,” assured Taylor.
Editor’s Note: Besides the Hoover siblings, there are many other young adults in the diocese who are alive in their Catholic faith and sharing their talent with the Church. Some of them will be profiled on a special edition of Proclaim! TV on July 11 at 10:30 a.m. on WATM ABC 23. They include Jordan Heinlein of Transfiguration Parish in Conemaugh; Josh and Anna Fera, members of Saint Mary Parish in Hollidaysburg; and Nathan Ringkamp, a parishioner of Saint John the Evangelist in Altoona and student at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
[Photos: (Top) Sisters Sarah, Taylor, and Emma Hoover. (Inset) Taylor Hoover assisting Debbie Zakrzwski, parish secretary at Saint Matthew.]