Anyone who knows me knows of my love for music and my love for singing, which I developed at an early age. I do not have the gift of playing any instrument, but have been given a gift to use my voice to sing. I know many of you who are reading this have this same gift.
As I write this article I have my mom close to my heart as today is the 15th anniversary of her death. One of my fondest memories was most every night around 5:30 our dinner was made and being warmed in the oven. We would await my dad’s nightly return from his work. The smells were wonderful. While waiting, my mom would be sitting in the darkened dining room at the piano, playing the soft, delicate yet moving songs she knew by heart. Both my parents could play the piano. My father had a beautiful tenor voice. They first taught me to love music.
In school I was so blessed to come to know and have a wonderful music teacher in Deanna Yurkovich. She taught hundreds of young students to love to sing, and to love all kinds of music. I will forever remember her with gratitude and love for the impact she had on me with the joy of singing. She was all about seeking out and finding the talents of many of Gillespie’s public school youth and helping them to identify these talents, and with courage using them in unbelievable ways. Our Christmas pageants or musicals — which were very religious in nature — were spectacular.
Now as I go home to my home parish I always love to have Mass with Ss. Simon and Jude’s church choir. They really are disciples as they sing. Another outstanding director of music, Rosemary Messner has taught, trained, and coached many of my friends and their parents to love “praising the Lord” at Mass. For years she has committed her life to directing the church choir; it is her ministry, her passion, her love. She is a true intentional disciple as well, for she renders her ministry as a gift to God and her parish, because she has a personal relationship with Jesus.
What I love seeing is that there are many young (high school and college age) voices in the choir loft. Wow! They are talented and a blessing to the choir and to the worship. At such a young age, Chance, Sara, Julianne and Layne know and share their talents, and they do this out of gratitude to God for this gift.
I have truly enjoyed these first two years of sharing in the ministry of promoting “Stewardship and Discipleship as a Way of Life.” As I have traveled to nearly 40 parishes thus far I have seen so many talented and gifted “intentional disciples.” I am convinced this is a part of the Holy Spirit’s lead. It is one thing to have a gift — but another when you can identify it, develop it and use it for the glory of God — and to bless the church and others.
In this diocese we are about a conversion of heart, and change of attitude of what it truly means to be Catholic and a member of the Roman Catholic Church. This is all about our identity that must stem from having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This is all about going deep within to bring forth the very best of who we are as we share the gifts and talents we possess. Matthew Kelly calls it, “becoming the best version of you.”
When I go into Little Flower Church in Springfield I get to see a beautiful hand-made altar and ambo, made by the hands and heart of a talented carpenter. Andy Lascody created them for the liturgies to be held at his parish. He never saw them at the church for he died unexpectedly right before Easter that year.
If you go to see these beautiful altars, you will also notice other pieces of wood made into presidential chairs and the Easter candle stand made by the talents of Jim Leaf. In love, he made them to match Andy’s original style. In Jim’s Easter candle stand you will see a massive gorgeous Easter candle designed by Andy’s daughter, Theresa. What a gift she offers each year, as she allows the Holy Spirit to guide her, and then with gratitude for this gift she offers her gift back to God and to her parish. I knew Andy Lascody. I know his wife Rosemary; I know Theresa; and I know Jim Leaf. All of them first developed their personal relationship with the Lord. It is all about their love for the Lord that leads them to share their talents in ministry.
Jim’s wife Barb is the master of church décor in which she, with her team, creates holy spaces for worship of the seasons. In my office right now I am looking at a photo of a Christmas scene in the sanctuary of Little Flower that is a work of art and God’s grace, and it joyfully sings out, “Holy, holy, holy!”
When I get down and things seem tough in this new ministry I go online and watch a few versions of America’s Got Talent or Britain’s Got Talent. When I want to be inspired and get back in focus of promoting discipleship, I watch one particular group named Collabro. These are five young men in their 20s who have a gift. In their first appearance on Britain’s Got Talent they chose a song which I feel truly was a statement of their identity, their mission and their call. Of all the thousands upon thousands songs out there, their choice was Stars from Les Miserables. When they came out at first, the judges seemed to already be thinking, “This is going to be a disaster.” They rolled their eyes, in judgement, questioning what was to happen next. To this day three years later, it still brings me to tears. It enables me to encounter a holy presence, the touch of the divine, calling me to a deeper walk, a deeper hunger for and commitment to discipleship. It makes me believe this call is for all of us. Check it out.
As they sang, I could tell they knew the song, the message, the invitation, and the one who was calling. The song tells of a fugitive running, fallen from God. In singing this song, these men see themselves as “stars” in the sky, shedding light in the darkness. They know that they are only one star in a sky filled with a multitude of others, but they also know their light, which shines through their life choices, can be the light those who have fallen from grace need to help them redirect their path. As they sing of the one walking in darkness (sin) they cry out and proclaim, “Mine (path) is the way of the Lord,” and they sing a message of truth to we who dare listen from the depths of our hearts, “Those who follow the path of the righteous, shall have their reward.” To this path they confess, “As God be my witness, I shall never yield, till we come face to face.”
Why that song in front of millions who would hear them for the first time? Because it is “who they are.” They sang, “You know your place in the sky, You hold your course and your aim.” Intentional disciples know their identity and their purpose. With confidence they boldly proclaim truth, and evangelize with the Holy Spirit’s power in leading others on this path to see him face to face.
We in our diocese have before us an opportunity to lead as the disciples were called to do by Jesus. Like America’s Got Talent and Britain’s Got Talent seek to show us on stage, I am seeing all over our diocese, a church filled with talented and gifted stewards who have so much to give. Yes, the Roman Catholic Church has so much talent. There are even more who are not joining us on Sunday; they too are gifted and talented. As God be our witness, we are must seek them out to invite them home. Be a star, be that light — and bring them home.
I know I will never meet the members of Collabro, but I thank God for them every time I need this lift, this reminder of our call to intentional discipleship.
Encounter his presence, tell the story and rejoice in all the good that God is doing in you and all his disciples. Identify your gifts, and choose to be a blessing, too. With your faith and God’s grace, be that light, be that inspiration, and with your talents be his star. Shine!