It’s 7:15 a.m. on a recent Friday and students, educators, and parents are streaming into Queen of All Saints Chapel. They have come to celebrate the feast of St. Francis of Assisi at morning Mass.
On this Friday and every Thursday during the school year the Mass is both a faith-enriching experience as well as a musical one. The reason is the Morning Music Ministry, an all-volunteer group that helps us open our hearts in prayer to God during the liturgy.
The group formed four years ago. That’s when theology educator Mark DeLaRosa and student Allison Baumgartner ’19, saw interlacing music with morning Mass in the school chapel as an opportunity to enhance the school community’s worshipping experience. Initially Baumgartner, a vocalist, and DeLaRosa, who plays guitar and cantors, played at Mass. Eventually, six other students joined the pair during that first year.
“By having liturgical music that students can enjoy and participate in, they are drawn into closer connection to our Lord, our church, our school, and one another,” says DeLaRosa
To them, providing music at morning Mass carried significance. It was – and still is - a way for them to grow in their faith, share their gifts and talents with others, bring enthusiasm to community worship, and help people pray. How? The answer is simple: music joins us together as a community.
Gibbons chaplain Fr. Daniel Oschwald adds: “Our participation in Mass musically is the raising of all our senses in word and song in order to lead us to higher things.”
In the years since it started, the Music Ministry group, which traditionally plays at Thursday morning Mass, has grown to more than 12 members, including educators. “The caring community we form and the fun we have contributes to the reasons students and educators join,” notes DeLaRosa, who serves as the group’s moderator.
Colette Allen ’20, lead cantor, joined the ministry at the start of her junior year.
”Music at Mass has always really helped me focus and connect to the liturgy,” Allen explains. “Now that I cantor and am able to be a part of the music, I’ve been able to see how much I can fully pray to God and use my voice to praise Him.”
At the recent Feast of St. Francis Mass music filled the chapel. The sounds of violins, guitars, cellos, and trumpets drew in worshippers as did the voices of the vocalists.
“By having liturgical music that students can enjoy and participate in, they are drawn into closer connection to our Lord, our church, our school, and one another,” DeLaRosa says. “Besides, it’s a great way to start the day: praising the Lord, connecting to friends, and after Mass, eating donuts.”
What do the students want others to experience? “I hope that others can experience the same sense of peace that I’ve been able to get every Thursday morning,” notes Allen. “High school can be really busy and stressful, and it’s so important to have those 40 minutes at Mass to forget about everything else and focus on your relationship with God. I hope that students, educators, and parents can experience that through our liturgical music.”