During Mass at Mother Seton Parish in Germantown, from left to right, Kristine, Sarah, Carlos and Isabelle De Leon  play instruments in their parish band that accompanies a children's choir. Isabelle De Leon said participating in the parish's music ministry is an active and fun way to worship God.
During Mass at Mother Seton Parish in Germantown, from left to right, Kristine, Sarah, Carlos and Isabelle De Leon play instruments in their parish band that accompanies a children's choir. Isabelle De Leon said participating in the parish's music ministry is an active and fun way to worship God.
Standing near the altar at a recent Mass at Mother Seton Parish in Germantown, the yellow-robed children's choir was accompanied by four sibling musicians - with a sister playing the drums, and two other sisters and a brother playing the guitar.

Kristine, Isabelle, Sarah and Carlos De Leon have played music in their Germantown parish for years at the behest of their parents - Tito and Lynn De Leon. Only now, after what Tito De Leon jokingly described as "blood, sweat and tears," do his children enjoy playing music, and appreciate how music draws them closer to Jesus in the Mass.

"It's easier to pay attention in Mass, and it's an important aspect of my faith. For me personally it's a more active and more fun way of worship. They say that singing is like praying twice," said Isabelle De Leon, 17, a rising senior at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in Washington who plays the drums with the choir.

The De Leon family has been at Mother Seton Parish since 1991, although they considered relocating when Tito De Leon found a job in Virginia in 1995. But Tito De Leon decided to stay, and commute nearly two hours to work each way so he could keep his family involved in the church's music ministry.

Tito De Leon said the parish is one of the most active parishes he has ever seen.

"Music is one of the ministries we could contribute to," he said. "If we can touch one heart or one soul and help them get closer to the Eucharist, we have done our job."

Kristine De Leon, 18, a recent graduate of the Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington who will attend The Catholic University of America this fall, said her involvement with the choir is a way to give back to the community and the Church.

"It's another form of meditation in addition to participating in the Mass," said Kristine, who played the guitar at the recent Mass.

Isabelle De Leon said she hoped playing instruments would be an inspiration for other children who attend Mass, "to know that they can also do it."

Playing the guitar with the choir helps Sarah De Leon understand the order of the Mass, she said.

It "helps me know where the Gloria and the meditation hymns are," said Sarah, 15, a rising sophomore at Georgetown Visitation who plays the guitar.

Carlos De Leon, 10, attends Mary of Nazareth School in Darnestown.

Tito De Leon said he has taught and encouraged his children to play at least two instruments each.

"In the beginning it's so difficult, but once you practice you can start enjoying it ...They can share their talents with the church and continue the music ministry here," he said.

Learning instruments has also helped Kristine, Isabelle and Sarah De Leon start a pop-rock band called Steel Polly. It is composed of four females on vocals, drums, guitar and bass, and two males on lead guitar and featured keyboards. The cover of their latest album, "Incognito," is of the girls in prom dresses and sneakers. According to their MySpace Web site their music sounds like Eisley, Avril Lavigne and The Cranberries.

Tito De Leon has also helped produce two albums. The albums feature Mother Seton's choirs, and were produced to help raise funds for the parish's new church that was dedicated in 2004. The albums, called "Songs for the Journey" and "Finishing The Dream," have sold more than 1,700 copies.

On Mother's Day, Lynn De Leon said she realized the true impact her family has had on the church community.

"It's a legacy you leave behind, and it gets better every generation," she said.

Tito and Lynn De Leon met in the Philippines in 1982 at a jazz Mass choir that Tito directed.

"I was trying to sing alto, and he fell in love with me the first time ...The kids are a product of that meeting," she said. "This is our calling."