Devotion, creativity lead to a life of service

    PORTAGE – There are plenty of ways to boost your faith, and lots of people who know how to have fun, but if you want to put faith and fun together, Jason Yurechko is the man to see.
    “Whatever I can do, I’m happy to serve,” is the way Yurechko, director of religious education at Nativity of Our Savior and devoted jack-of-all-trades for the Diocese of Gary, sums up his boundless energy and enthusiasm for his Catholic evangelizing.
    His most recent turn has come as his parish’s technology producer/director, taking his place behind the video camera as Father Kevin McCarthy, pastor, livestreams Masses and a growing number of other liturgies during the COVID-19 pandemic that led to a ban against public church services starting in mid-March and extending through Easter and beyond.
    “We started livestreaming Mass on St. Patrick’s Day, and we’ve been showing daily Masses (including Sunday) at 8 a.m., Eucharistic Adoration from 8:45 a.m. to noon, Rosary Club at 7 p.m. Wednesdays, the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 p.m. daily and, more recently, a Bible study class on the Book of Acts called “Actin’ Up with Father Kevin McCarthy.”
    “It has been a very fruitful way of staying connected with our parishioners and the response has been overwhelming and humbling,” said Yurechko of the audience that reaches 100 for live broadcasts, with up to 6,000 viewers overall on Facebook, where all videos remain available. “Father Kevin’s goal is to welcome viewers from all 50 states – we are already up to 33. It helps to have someone as dynamic as Father Kevin.”
    Parishioners agree. “Jason is the cameraman, editor, social media guru at Nativity,” said Ana Grandfield. “He is also very innovative. Need to move the camera without shaking? He improvised with a wheelchair. We are blessed to have him. I have been watching Mass daily, Adoration, Divine Mercy, Rosary, and Stations of the Cross thanks to him and Father Kevin (McCarthy).”
    The same could be said of Yurechko, who became the DRE at Nativity in January, 2019, after serving as an adult leader for youth ministry, teaching Eighth Grade Confirmation preparation, assisting in sacramental preparation for First Reconciliation, First Communion and Confirmation, and serving as a speaker for Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) candidates.
    Since joining the Portage parish nine years ago with his wife, Melissa, and children Rose and Andy, seventh- and fifth-graders, respectively, at Nativity of Our Savior School, he has also served the parish by initiating the monthly family Rosary, facilitating instruction in the Theology of the Body for Teens program, and coordinating Eucharistic Adoration events for Palm Sunday.
    Yurechko, a graphic design professional who runs his own business, Higher Ground Creative Media, has also donated his design skills to the parish and emcees festivals, using another talent that has had him on the field at all Gary SouthShore RailCats baseball games as the on-field announcer since 2003. “One of the highlights of my announcing career, in addition to the team’s three league championships, was participating in the outdoor Mass in the stadium before last year’s Bishop’s Birthday Bash,” Yurechko recalled.
    The proud Andean High School and Ball State University graduate attributes his interest in serving others and volunteerism to his years as a member of YARC at Andrean, a student group that hosts holiday parties for special needs youth and adults. “I’m still active, dressing up as St. Nicholas or the Easter Bunny,” he admitted. “The guests and the students both have a field day.”
    Yurechko also “escorts” St. Nicholas to his former parish, St. Helen in Hebron, and provides signage for fish frys among other services. He and his wife also served as Marriage Prep instructors at St. James the Less in Highland, where they were married in 2002.
    When his grandfather died about 10 years ago and his grandmother talked about “folding up shop on the annual Slovak Day celebration” they had organized 40 years earlier, “I said, ‘I’ll do it,” and he jumped in to keep the cultural tradition alive each summer at the Salvatorian Shrine in Merrillville.
    At his parish’s own Nativity Fest, Yurechko emcees, adds vocals for the band Misbehavin’ and sponsors an Evangelization Booth where parishioners answer questions, talk with festivalgoers about their faith, and offer to pray for the needs of their guests. ‘It’s kind of like a Catholic dunk tank; we gather all the prayer requests and we have people go to our chapel and pray for them,” Yurechko explained.
    As DRE, Yurechko has also brought plenty of spirit to Nativity’s religious education programs. When he brought the Totus Tuus faith formation to the parish for about 50 youth and teens last summer, he attended every daytime and evening session that week with the college-level counselors, and “Yurechkoed it,” by hosting a visit by the fire department that included water hoses as well as water balloons
    “Jason has always been a great advocate for the young people of his parish and diocese. Jason has used his creative skills to help unify our teens through his T-shirt designs for various events and marketing,” said Vicky Hathaway, consultant for the diocesan Office of Youth and Young Adults. “You can tell that Jason wants to show the young people he encounters the love of Christ in their everyday lives. Jason’s enthusiasm for the Gospel and for the saints helps young people connect to their faith in new and creative ways.”
    He chaperoned a group of Nativity Ninjas (Never In Need, Jesus Always Saves), the parish teen group, to the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis last year, wearing his custom Diocese of Gary hockey jersey. A diehard hockey (read ‘Chicago Blackhawks’) fan, Yurechko got permission to use the diocesan coat of arms from former Bishop Donald J. Hying. “He said it was OK, ‘As long as you stay out of the penalty box,’” Yurechko recalled.
    He has brought parish school students and faith formation students together for monthly Super Sacrament Saturdays where they prepare together for reconciliation, Holy Communion and confirmation. “(They) get to know each other as a parish, a time to be a family, and it’s been pretty successful,” Yurechko said.
    Nothing is more important to Yurechko than family, and he credits his wife of 18 years for his achievements. “She’s the one who believes in me, encourages me and is willing to make sacrifices as I put in 12-13 hours a day,” he said of Melissa Yurechko, a fifth-grade teacher honored as 2019 Teacher of the Year for the School City of Whiting. “I can do what the Lord is calling me to do because of her.”