Living the Faith: Tony Ricci and Neil Hanlon

GEORGETOWN Ask a typical American teenager what they want to do early Sunday morning and you’ll likely get a one-word answer: sleep.

Not so for Tony Ricci and Neil Hanlon. Every Sunday morning the two young men, ages 15 and 12 respectively, arrive before 8 a.m. at their parish, St. Mary in Georgetown, to set up their guitars Tony plays electric guitar; Neil plays acoustic. Then they wait.

Shortly before 9 a.m., first and second grade students from the parish’s religious education program file in with their teachers, and Tony and Neil play their instruments while parish volunteer Ann McGrath leads the youngsters in song.

“It all started one day when I was coming back from Mass,” recalled Tony, a sophomore at Triton Regional High School. Reading the parish bulletin, he saw an opportunity to share his musical talent with his parish.

Tony tried it for a few weeks, and really liked it.

At about the same time, Neil, a sixth grader from Pine Grove Elementary School in Rowley also began to take an interest in sharing his musical skills with his parish. Neil first played the guitar for the religious education children with one of his father’s friends, he said. Then, when Tony began playing every week, Neil joined him.

Music is very important to both young men and both have taught themselves to play guitar. Beyond guitar, Neil has taken trumpet lessons and has also taught himself to play the cello and the clarinet. Tony takes piano and voice lessons, and has taught himself to play trumpet.

“Music runs very deep in my family,” said Tony.

In addition to their music, both Neil and Tony attend Mass every week together with their families.

Tony, an altar server, is also involved in the Alpha program, a 10-week course on the basics of Christianity.

“The Alpha program is kind of like advanced CCD,” he explained, with one significant difference. “Some kids in CCD don’t want to be there. In the Alpha program, everyone wants to be there, so the whole thing goes more smoothly.”

Tony also praised his pastor, Father James Carroll, for helping to bring together the communities from Georgetown and Rowley during the process of parish reconfiguration. According to Tony, Father Carroll has been instrumental in bringing together the two worship sites -- St. Mary in Georgetown and St. Mary in Rowley -- and creating a strong, unified parish community.

“Everything is running smoothly, and that’s a lot to do with Father Carroll,” he said.

“He’s really a nice guy to be around,” he added. “He loves to laugh. When he wants to be serious he is, but he also knows how to have fun.”

Neil echoed the sentiment. “[Father Carroll] is nice. He’s generous, you know, fun to be around.”