Igniting Catholics with the Fire of Faith
Singer Gretchen Harris Teaches Prayer through Song
The most e-mails that I have ever received about anything in my parish were the e-mails I received after her (Gretchen Harris's) concert. She moved a lot of people with the living testimony that she gives; you can tell that it comes from her heart. Even as a priest, it was very refreshing to see how she took her faith to a new level. Her faith is orthodox and she's dynamic; she really connected with the audience and lifted them up to a greater sense of joy and faithfulness. This is the type of person we need in parishes today.
Fr. Craig Harrison, St. Francis of Assisi Parish
The need it meets
People are especially sensitive to music and personal testimony as sources of inspiration. A fresh face among the laity can encourage people to pray through quality Catholic music.
Where it came from
Gretchen Harris is blessed with a deep spiritual life. She started singing at the age of 13 in a youth choir. After some years of solo work in parishes, she felt a call to record albums and help Catholics learn to pray. She has recorded 6 albums and has given concerts all over the United States and abroad.
How it works
Gretchen Harris does several types of singing engagements:
1. Music for a planned event, e.g., to accompany a speaker, a retreat, or a women‚Äôs conference.
2. A 45-60 minute concert, adapted to whatever the parish wants. Some examples:
- Concerts for specific liturgical seasons (e.g., for Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, or Marian concerts);
- Concerts to help parishes with fundraising;
- The Concert for Life, which joins music with personal testimony on abortion and adoption, as well as audiovisuals. There are usually several priests on hand to hear confessions during the social time after the concert.
A typical concert includes ‚Äúgood music, some laughs, and the touching of hearts.‚Äù Her target audience is lukewarm to warm Catholics, and her goal is to help ignite their Catholic faith in all its depth, fostering Eucharistic adoration and communion, confession, Mary, the saints.
At St. Francis of Assisi parish, Gretchen Harris' Concert for Life attracted 250 parishioners. After the concert:
- 19 people began Eucharistic adoration and many who were already doing adoration increased their participation.
- The pastor received 45 positive e-mails from parishioners thanking him for bringing her and asking him to have her back again soon.
- The majority of the participants were deeply moved, some to tears. They told the pastor afterwards that her ministry lifted them up and gave them a deeper experience of faith.
- People who had not been to confession in many years went that day.
- There was evidence of real conversion in a number of parishioners.
About 2/3 of her audience generally follows up with CD purchases. She has sold over 20,000 CDs plus Internet downloads and radio and TV exposure. She hears every day from people who have come closer to Christ and Mary through her music.
- Order color posters via website http://www.gretchen-harris.com/tour.html
- It helps when the pastor plays a short selection of Gretchen's music before Mass so that people can sample the quality of the music.
- Gretchen can sometimes come and sing at the weekend Masses and give the concert the following weekend.
The presence of the priest.
- It also helps when the parish priest is at the concert to introduce her and to explain the overall purpose of the concert. If the concert is a fundraiser for the parish, his presence is especially helpful.
- The priest‚Äôs presence is also crucial for the Concert for Life, since the sacrament of confession is a major element of the conversions that are experienced there.
A suitable location for CD sales and socializing after the concert also helps.
How to implement it
- Contact Gretchen online at: http://www.gretchen-harris.com/tour.html and choose your concert type: fundraising, pro-life, for a specific liturgical season, etc.
- She can be flexible in fees and stipends, and can adjust to the means of the parish.
Fr. Craig Harrison is pastor of
St. Francis of Assisi.