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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Catching (real) Fire - David Haas's vision for Music Ministry Alive!

A week from Friday evening, St. Anne Catholic Community in Barrington will host an historic concert, if history can be measured in the small world of Catholic liturgical music. In a rare conjunction of schedules between us and a church calendar that requires a spiritual crowbar and WD-40 to pry open, at 8:00 pm on Friday, October 10, David Haas, Fr. J. Michael Joncas, Marty Haugen, Gary Daigle, Terry Donohoo and I, along with a few dozen of our musical associates from St. Anne and St. Edna, will perform a concert to benefit Music Ministry Alive! (MMA).

MMA is David Haas's dream child, now sixteen years old, an annual study week for high school and early college age liturgical musicians, held on the campus of St. Catherine's University in Minneapolis. With a faculty comprised of nationally and locally recognized leaders in the fields of sacred music, theology, and liturgy, MMA embraces a model of apprenticeship and mentoring as it seeks to pass on not just the love of liturgy and music, but the treasure of the gospel and love of Christ from one generation to another. MMA spells out its mission as being "to engage and empower young people to serve as liturgical music leaders in the church." Over its sixteen year history, it has served 2200 young people with a staff of 550 adult leaders. The faculty represents a "who's who" in a wide range of fields that touch on the core area of faith transmission: theologians and scholars like Fr. Michael Joncas, Art Zannoni, Sr. Kathleen Harmon, Sr. Gertrude Foley, and Fr. Ricky Manalo, pastors like Ray East, and a wide range of musicians with expertise in a variety of instruments and disciplines, Lynn Trapp, Rob Strusinki, Rob Glover, Jaime Cortez, Tom Kendzia,  Bonnie Faber, Robyn Medrud, and many, many others.

David and co-director Lori True, campus minister at St. Catherine's, have developed a holistic curriculum for attendees that includes daily morning and evening prayer, workshops and lessons with time for music rehearsals, concerts, general presentations by staff members, faith sharing, scripture study, and a concluding concert open to the public given by the students and faculty together. A unique feature of MMA is an adult track held during the same week in which adult community members can participate with the proviso that there is a youth attendee from their parish attending. The musical requirement is dropped for the adults, so that the adult can participate in a range of topics from music and liturgy to scripture and ministry development.

With national financial support from the bishops' conference and others failing to keep Vatican II-mandated liturgical centers open, and with the loss of other formational efforts like the North American Forum on the Catechumenate, private efforts to form, mentor, and inspire future leaders need to be encouraged. Musical and institutional training alone cannot form liturgical leaders. Young people, and older ones, need to be brought along in a matrix of Christian love, nurtured by scripture and prayer, inspired and enthused by the charism of others and the ministry of the church. We are all called to be part of that effort. I cannot strongly enough support the work of Music Ministry Alive!, and hope that you will consider supporting them as well, whether by attending our concert, making a donation, or finding young people whose path in the Church might be shaped by an encounter like this. Thank you, David and Lori, and all who have given themselves to this project and others like it (I'm thinking of Youth Sing Praise! every summer at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, and I know there are others around the country as well.)

This is how "singing a new church" will happen, person-to-person, sharing faith, grounded in the Word and in prayer, attentive to the gifts and needs of the church and matching one to the other. God wants us to catch the fire from one another. Music Ministry Alive! is one beautiful way we can see it happening.

If you can't make the concert, donate to Music Ministry Alive anyway. Music Ministry Alive! is a non-profit foundation and donations to the program are tax-deductible. For more information, if you or someone you know might be interested in attending next summer, get more information here. Thanks, everyone!