Today, after a little break, we continue our series exploring how our seminarians continue their preparations for priesthood and religious life even during the summers. We hear today from Dennis Strach who just finished his candidate year at Moreau and will be heading to the Novitiate in the early August. Dennis, who wrote for our blog earlier this year, shares how he is using his summer to continue to developing the gifts and talents that God gave him.
Before departing for the novitiate this August, Holy Cross has invited me to continue my studies in music and Spanish. This summer, I am taking organ lessons from Karen Kirner, associate director and organist for the Notre Dame Folk Choir, while daily engaging in Latino ministry at St. Adalbert, a Holy Cross parish located on the west side of South Bend, Indiana. The 101-year-old parish is situated in a historically Polish and Hungarian part of town, now home to a thriving Latino community. Each culture brings a unique and valuable musical tradition to the Church. While witnessing first-hand how music can unite a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual parish, I have found for myself a profound peace, joy and fulfillment in music ministry, an area that the community has asked me to grow and develop.
Music is a passion and a gift discovered long before my time in formation with Holy Cross. Since the fourth grade, I have dabbled in all sorts of activities: piano lessons, organ lessons, and voice lessons. I have taught music classes, private piano lessons and sang a number of seasons with Michigan Opera Theatre and the Detroit Music Hall. As a freshman in college, I was working full time as the music director of a parish; I was directing a choir, playing and singing at weddings, funerals, and Masses…obviously, my life revolved around music. Each musical activity that I participated in was an excellent learning experience that helped to confirm not only my God-given gifts and abilities, but, above all, the importance of sharing my gifts with others. It was this reality, teamed with my prayer life, that aided me in recognizing that there was something more that God was calling me to. After graduating with my bachelor's degree in music, I decided to begin discerning the priesthood formally with Holy Cross at Moreau Seminary.
My time in prayer and discernment during the Candidate year helped me to realize that ministry in music and a life in Holy Cross are not mutually exclusive. It was unnecessary to think that the tug I was feeling to discern the priesthood and religious life meant disregarding the other passions in my life.
Music is a spiritual experience, a living, organic reality that we can engage in to deepen our relationship with God and others. I have learned how to make my music my prayer. It is something I can participate in to unwind after a long day, bring comfort to a family who has just lost a loved one, or create an environment for myself and others to experience the presence of God. Holy Cross has done nothing but encourage me to develop and share these gifts. This past year at Moreau, I was able to play for daily Mass, Vespers, Lucernarium, and the diaconate ordination of Paul Ybarra, C.S.C. I was able to assist with choir rehearsals at Moreau, and even had the opportunity to sing with the Notre Dame Folk Choir at our presbyteral ordination liturgy this past April.
This summer, I am learning how to incorporate God's call to music ministry with His call to be a Holy Cross religious while in a parish setting. The blessings I have been graced with during my time here at St. Adalbert only aid me in anticipating my time in Colorado at the Holy Cross novitiate, where I am bound to gain an even better understanding of where God desires me to serve him.