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God is the heart of Sopia and Nate's romance

By By Michael Spath | Photography by Tom Gennara | October 2013

God is the heart of Sopia and Nate's romance

Sophia Roth and Nate Winnie look like an average teenage couple. They smile and laugh, sharing inside jokes and memories. Nate offers a compliment, boasting how beautiful her choir voice is, while she talks about his accomplishments on the football field.

But Sophia and Nate, both headed into their senior year at Father Gabriel Richard High School in Ann Arbor, talk differently than most teens. Rooted in their Catholic upbringing and scholarly endeavors, the two show uncommon respect for each other, and have vowed not to rush their relationship emotionally and physically.

“In high school, it’s obvious that most couples don’t center their relationships around faith, but, for us, it’s about being respectful of each other and incorporating God into our relationship,” says Sophia, 17. “We realize there are so many pressures in society and that friends want to compare relationships in terms of what they’ve been doing, but we don’t want to compare ourselves to others.”

“Really early in our relationship we sat down and said, ‘We don’t have to do everything the world says to show we care about each other,’” adds Nate, 16. “We didn’t have to be pressured into something we’re not ready for.”

The two began dating in the fall of their sophomore year, and there have been plenty of opportunities – school dances, retreats, and just hanging out with friends – in which they could have given in to physical and emotional temptations, but they’ve made a stronger commitment to each other, and, with God’s help, they have forged their own path. “We’ve always been able to take a step back and ask ourselves what we want,” Nate says. “It’s hard, though, because it’s just everywhere – TV, movies, and maybe the music is the most ridiculous because it makes you think that if you’re not doing the things the lyrics say, that you’re a loser.”

Nate and Sophia both dated prior to their relationship and out of those experiences they discovered more about themselves and what truly mattered to them. “I realized ... if a guy puts pressure on me, then he doesn’t really care about me, and I don’t need that,” says Sophia.

It was also early in her high-school career, after a series of bad relationships, that Sophia realized the relationship she was ignoring the most, and needed the most, was with God. “I wasn’t going to Mass and I was placing so much value on what guys thought of me, but I started to realize that my relationship with God was more important.”

Sophia and Nate now share their faith together, praying in the school chapel before class starts and attending Mass side-by-side when their schedules allow. They also attended a Kairos Retreat together this past year that carried their faith to greater heights.

“That retreat was a big eye-opener to me because it was maybe the first time in my life I really invested in my faith and what that meant to me,” says Nate.

Sophia and Nate don’t know what the future holds. They will likely end up at different colleges, but even if that occurs, they made a commitment to each other they have no intention of abandoning now.

“I’ve heard friends say, ‘I love you but we’re not going to the same college so let’s just do this,’ but I think what we’ve said is it means a lot more to us and to God to be respectful, and waiting means you love that person more,” says Nate.