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November 25, 2009
Church musicians honored with St. Cecilia Awards
By John Gleason
Three pastoral musicians were presented awards at the 2009 St. Cecilia Mass, which was held this year at Light of the World Church in Littleton the morning of Nov. 21.
The liturgy, celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley, honors those who work in the ministry of sacred music and is named for the patron saint of musicians.
Receiving St. Cecilia Awards were Gerry Cuzzetto Yoakum of St. Jude Church in Lakewood, and John and Susan Griebel of St. Elizabeth Church in Denver. Combined, the three musicians have more than 100 years in music ministry.
Gerry Cuzzetto Yoakum
Originally from Aguilar, Colo., Gerry Cuzzetto Yoakum, 74, moved to Denver in 1960 following her marriage to husband Dale. An educator by training, she spent 34 years teaching fifth and sixth grade as well as music before retiring. Not wanting to let the grass grow under her feet, Gerry keeps busy as a volunteer when she isn’t playing the piano for the children’s choir at her home parish of St. Jude. She said she can’t remember a time when music wasn’t a part of her life.
“I began singing in the church choir when I was 5 years old,” she Church musicians honored with St. Cecilia Awardstold the Denver Catholic Register. “By the time I was 10, I was learning to play the organ and eventually would play for Mass. I also learned to play the piano.”
After moving to Denver, Gerry sang in the parish choirs of Our Lady of Fatima, St. Bernadette and eventually St. Jude. She served as a cantor for 35 years before her voice, in her words, began to go a few years ago. However, that didn’t stop her from working in music ministry.
“I was sad when I had to stop being a cantor,” she said. “But I could still play for the children’s choir. It’s very fulfilling.”
In speaking about her ministry, Gerry said that music can make a liturgy come to life.
“For me, when I sing, the word of God jumps out and fills me up,” she said. “It’s as if the full meaning of His word comes alive. I’ve always felt that way and that’s why I was surprised when I found out I was receiving this award. Music is just a part of me; I really feel like I don’t deserve an award.”
John and Susan Griebel
John and Susan Griebel have been making music together for more than 40 years.
A native of Colorado John, 63 met his future wife while the two were attending the University of Colorado. Susan, 60, is originally from Omaha, Neb., and is proud of the fact that when she was baptized it took place at St. Cecilia Church.
The Griebels both sing and play the guitar. They said they took part in what was the first official guitar Mass in the Denver Archdiocese in 1967.
“Music has always been a part of our lives and our marriage,” Susan told the Register. “We sang at Blessed Sacrament and at St. Louis parishes before finding a home at St. Elizabeth of Hungary. The rest is history.”
The Griebels have five children. John is a lawyer who specializes in estate planning and Susan kept busy being a stay-at-home mom. However, she always found time to sing for weddings and funerals when the situation arose.
“Seems like I was always running with my guitar in one hand and a child in the other,” she said with a laugh.
John said that the privilege of singing for weddings and baptisms within the faith community has afforded the couple the opportunity to sing in more than 50 parishes in the archdiocese.
“It’s allowed us the amazing chance to experience Christ’s presence among the faithful of the greater Church,” he said.
The couple said one of the most gratifying parts of being involved in music ministry is being able to lead the congregation in song.
“We want people to feel like the liturgy cannot happen without the sounds of their voices,” Susan said. “If this award is about anything, it’s about being part of the wonderful community of St. Elizabeth.”