Gabriel Sherwin, 13, bounces his little brother on his lap at church. Luke, who’s just under 1 year old, squeals as he takes a look around his parish at St. Clement’s in Saratoga Springs. Gabe holds a finger to his lips and makes a “shhh” sound. Luke smiles an infectious grin, then quiets down. 

The rest of the brothers — Thomas, 14, John, 11, Xavier, 9, Thaddeus, 7, and Charles, 5, — are scattered across the rest of the pew.

Kate Sherwin is mom and shepherd to her flock of boys, and no, that’s not an exaggeration: there’s seven boys in total, it really takes a whole pew to fit their family. 

“There’s so many of us it’s hard not to be familiar with the family with all boys,” said Kate. “We’re the family with the big white van.”

It’s hard not to notice Kate and Stephen Sherwin’s family: Two parents. Seven children. All boys. It’s not a common sight. 

But the Sherwins aren’t only known for the size of their family, but also the size and dedication of their faith. In a time where family life and faith can be a difficult balance, the Sherwins strive to make the two a top priority in their lives.

“I would say faith and family are the two things that we are really set on,” said Kate. 

The four oldest boys, Thomas, Gabriel, John, and Xavier have all been altar servers at St. Clement’s for years. Thomas started when he was in third grade: “I used to complain about it before I was good,” he joked. “It took a few years but then I became good.”

“I signed them up to be altar servers but … even though I signed them up for it, they own it,” Kate said. “They learn it and they know what to do and they show the little ones.” 

There are often times when only the Sherwin boys are serving at Mass; the altar filled up with just the brothers. Rev. Edward Faliskie, pastor at St. Clement’s parish, said it’s “amazing” to see when the whole family serves at Mass.

“It’s great when people see the whole family up there, it’s pretty awesome,” said Father Faliskie. “It’s a really wondrous thing to see.”

Thaddeus will be making his first communion next year and plans to join his brothers in altar serving:  “There’s only room for four so when we have five we’ll see what happens,” Kate said.

Even before the boys, the Sherwins had ties to St. Clement’s parish going back decades. Kate’s father grew up in Saratoga and attended St. Clement’s school and then Saratoga Central Catholic High School. And, just like his grandsons, was an altar server at the parish. 

Years later, Kate and her five siblings followed in similar footsteps: all six children went through St. Clement’s school, Saratoga Central Catholic High School, and even all attended the same college: Siena College in Loudonville. 

“I being the first, I blazed a lot of trails,” Kate said. She recalled wanting to attend a college nearby so she could come home and see her two youngest sisters, who at the time were only in first and third grade.

As the oldest, she recalled helping to watch and care for her younger sisters and brothers. While some teenagers might resent that burden of responsibility, Kate loved every second of it. Being raised in such a large family made her want that same dynamic down the road. 

“I know other people who grew up in big families don’t always have that same opinion, but I loved every bit of it,” she said. “I loved helping with the little ones, I loved being with my mom, I loved doing all that. So I looked to doing the same in my marriage and my family, hopefully. But by the grace of God we were given just what I hoped for.”

Just like Kate’s father and her siblings, six of her boys have either gone through St. Clement’s school or currently attend. Thomas, Gabriel and John graduated St. Clement’s and attend Saratoga Central Catholic. 

“For my husband and I, faith was very important,” Kate said. Sending their children to Catholic school wasn’t just to carry on the family tradition, but to build upon the faith in their own family. 

Faith “is a safety, it gives you confidence and reassurance that God is there and he’s with you and he’s given you this beautiful plan for us,” Kate said. “I want my kids to know where to turn and what to do when they have a hard time in life. Faith is always first, and I think it informs our family, enriches our family, it makes our family certainly closer.”

Plus having a little faith can come in handy when raising seven boys. 

“When I just had the older one, it was so much harder than it is now,” Kate said. “Even though I have more of them, they all help out, they entertain each other, they take care of each other, they watch out for each other. They’re good boys.” 

Stephen works as an attorney in Albany; Kate stays at home with the boys and enjoys writing on the side. The family’s days are packed from baseball and basketball practices, to naptime and video games. The boys are fans of Zelda and Super Mario Brothers, and recently have picked up on Pokemon. 

For Stephen, having boys to talk sports and play ball with was something he always looked forward to: “Just having all these little buddies to throw the frisbee out in the street in front of the house, or throw a ball or do hitting practice or watch a game on T.V.,” Kate said. “My husband is loving it.”

Going into the school year, the Sherwins expect to keep the same schedule: making time to play and relax, but above all, making time for faith and family. 

“In our home, we’re not perfect, but there’s a lot of understanding of how God loves us,” Kate  said. “It’s such a comforting thing to have that and to know that here it’s wholesome, even if it’s not perfect.”