Ask 18-year-old Emily Garrity what influence her involvement with parish and diocesan youth groups has had on her life, and she answers without hesitation: “It has made me the person I am today. If it were not for the youth programs, I don’t know how much I’d be connected with my faith.”
The person she is today is one of many talents and interests. Garrity, a member of The Church of the Redeemer in Sayre, Pennsylvania, graduated from Sayre High School in June and in the fall will attend and play basketball for Pennsylvania State University in Wilkes-Barre. In high school she was a member of the National Honor Society, participated in band and chorus, played volleyball and was the co-captain of her basketball team. She also threw the shotput and the javelin for the track team, has a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and earned Bronze and Silver awards as a cadet in the Girl Scouts. Her skill and love of BMX (bicycle motocross) racing earned her a Bob Warnicke Memorial Scholarship.
Garrity also received college scholarships through both the Diocese of Bethlehem and Church of the Redeemer where, as she puts it, she’s “been pretty much involved in every program” they have involving youth. She’s a member of the youth group, an acolyte and a Sunday School teacher.
Garrity also has been active in the diocese. Since the ninth grade she’s been a member of the Youth Council, a group that meets several times a year to plan diocesan-wide youth events such as Christophany, a weekend event for middle and high schoolers that usually is held in spring.
“Last year I attended EYE (the international Episcopal Youth Event at Villanova University in Philadelphia), and the final sermon was ‘Go,’ Garrity said. The sermon was given by our new Presiding Bishop Elect Michael Curry. So we wrapped that all into what we believe Christophany is and made it our theme. It was beautiful.”
Garrity said her involvement with her parish and with diocesan youth groups has given her more than just a deeper understanding of her faith. It has helped her develop leadership skills and solidified her desire to be a teacher.
Last November Garrity was the rector of Happening, a diocesan-wide weekend event for youth in grades 9-12. “I had to come up with the theme of the weekend (Safe Haven) and plan and organize the weekend with Ellen Sifter, who was our youth missioner at the time,” Garrity said. “At Happenings many speeches and talks are given by the youth staff members. The staff really open themselves up and shows the youth attending how much we enjoy and care about our faith.”
She liked the responsibilities and the challenges of being the rector in charge, she said, and “It helped me realize what I wanted to do with my life. I’ve always wanted to become a teacher, but I’ve never been completely sure. The experience of being rector of Happening helped me see how much I will enjoy teaching in the near future.”
Garrity plans to major in special education and secondary science, a choice directly related to her parish involvement.
“Actually, the only reason I’m considering special education is because one of the teachers, Doreen Marshall, at our Sunday School is a special education teacher at Athens, the town next to ours. For my senior project I job shadowed her, and that set my mind to it. Being a Sunday school teacher helps you understand a lot about teaching.”
Garrity, the daughter of Gregory Garrity and Evelyn VanBoven and the granddaughter of Bonnie and Edward Garrity, says going away to college won’t keep her away from church.
“A family I’m very close to because of diocesan youth programs lives near where I’ll be in school,” Garrity said. “They have a church close to my school, and I’ve decided that I will be attending it with them and maybe help serve on Sundays.”
If the past is any indication, Garrity will find a church home wherever life takes her….and she’ll keep busy.