Friday, May 12, 2017


"In anthropology, liminality (from the Latin word limen, meaning 'a threshold') is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when their ritual is complete. During a ritual's liminal stage, participants stand at the threshold between their previous ways of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the ritual establishes."

Simply put, "Yep."

I hope you enjoy your weekend. It's been quite a week for me.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Leaving World Library Publications

Dear Faithful Followers of Gotta Sing Gotta Pray,

It is with a mixture of sadness and excitement that I write to let you know that I have resigned my position as Vice President and Chief Publishing Officer at J.S. Paluch Company and World Library Publications.

I have worked here for over seventeen years, first as WLP’s Worship Resources Editor, and then, for the last nine years, as the leader of World Library Publications and as a member of the Senior Management Team of the J.S. Paluch Company.

I have been so privileged to lead our team members here at WLP. The scores of awards that line our shelves and bookcases are a testament to their expertise and dedication to our mission to joyfully serve and inspire the singing, praying, initiating Church. I have grown to love these colleagues and will miss them so much.

Speaking of dedication to mission, I wanted to share with you where my discernment process over the past year has led me. I have accepted the position of Executive Director of Mission Integration at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, Connecticut, which is a hospital in the Trinity Catholic Healthcare System of New England. This is obviously a new arena for me. I have always felt that my life is driven by a vocation to serve God and God’s people. This is just another way I am humbly answering that call.

Please say a prayer for me as I return to New England, the region where I was born and reared. This will not be an easy transition, but one that I know is the right direction for me.

My last day here at J.S. Paluch and World Library Publications will be Friday, June 2. If you ever need to be in touch, feel free to email me at

Another piece of great news is that Jennifer Odegard, currently Director of Marketing for J.S. Paluch and World Library Publications, has been named the new Vice President and Chief Publishing Officer here. Jennifer comes to the position with twenty years of experience in Catholic publishing. I am so happy for Jennifer and am completely confident in her ability to lead this great publishing house.

Thank you for your support and encouragement over the years, your friendship, and your companionship on our shared mission to serve God and God’s people.


I will be continuing to post here until my departure.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Songs with Questions and Answers

Greetings during this Second Week of Easter.

On Sunday, I found myself in my usual "spot" at Old Saint Patrick's at the 8:00 Mass. No standing in line as I did for that Mass on Easter Sunday. My view:

We sang a contemporary song during the communion procession. I am not going to name it nor the composer. When one gets into the singing at Mass like me, I pay attention to what I am singing. This particular song had a basic refrain that summoned us to sing to the Lord. I was thrown by the verses, because they were all questions and to me, begged for an answer. When I returned to my pew after receiving communion, I didn't pick up the worship aid because I just didn't understand why the verses were asking so many questions.

When I came into work on Monday, I looked for the song in a hymnal and found that it was only at the end of the third verse of the song that the questions were answered. I shared my experience with some folks here who serve as musicians in their parishes on the weekend. One person told me that they had sung the same hymn at Mass on Sunday and "every single time we have sung it we never have gotten to that third verse." We did sing the third verse at Old Saint Patrick's on Sunday, and I should have followed along and sung the entire song for sure.

It got me thinking about hymns and songs that actually unfold a story line, or whose verses unfold a particular theological construct. I remember a Sunday a long, long time ago, Trinity Sunday as a matter of fact, when my parish sang the hymn O God, Almighty Father as the "recessional hymn." Only two verses were sung, so that Sunday we only recognized two personsFather and Sonof the Holy Trinity and by skipping the third verse completely omitted the Holy Spirit! And on Trinity Sunday, no less!

As an organist and pianist, I sometimes get lost in the accompaniment, or in my own interludes and flourishes or key changes and I can lose the meaning of the words set to that accompaniment. Sunday's experience reminded me again, as a "pew Catholic" to give the entire song a chance before making my judgments. Live, worship, and learn.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, April 21, 2017

"I Don't Leave Home Without It!"

Happy Friday of the Easter Octave.

During this past Easter Sunday's homily, Fr. Ed Foley invited us to ponder what "rehearsing the resurrection" looks like in our daily lives. How, for instance, how do we make the resurrection of Christ present to others?

Always on the look-out for ways to re-interpret what most would consider "nice" behavior, I discovered one of those little "rehearsing the resurrection" moments this morning and it came from one of our WLP customers.

This came from a woman who has a single subscription to our Seasonal Missalette. She had sent in her check with her recent stub from the bill. Our accounting department "upstairs" processes these payments quickly and efficiently, unless there is something out of the ordinary. If that happens, the payment and the stub are sent down to us here at WLP.

This morning, I was handed an "out of the ordinary" payment. Attached to the stub and the check, which was written for an amount that exceeded the billed amount, was a hand-written note. Here's a photo of the note:

The note reads:

10 April 2017
To whom it may concern:
Thank you for being so prompt in sending me my missalette!! I don't leave home without it. The balance is a small donation to your coffee fund.
God Bless -
Love -

This woman brought joy into our hearts, as well as a little donation to a coffee fund that we should perhaps start around here! For me, at least, she accomplished a little "resurrection rehearsal."

Happy Easter!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Easter Sunday: On the Avenue

Easter greetings on this Thursday of the octave.

So, continuing with my different Easter Triduum . . .

Attending the Easter Vigil at my parish was just not possible for me this year.

I have not been at an Easter Sunday morning Mass in a parish since I left full-time parish ministry in 1999. I decided to attend the 8:00 A.M. Easter Sunday morning Mass, thinking that the later Masses would be close to impossible to attend, because of the crowds. I arrived at the parish at 7:40. The 7:00 A.M. Mass was still going on in the church. When I walked around the corner from the parking lot, this is what I saw.

The line of people waiting to enter the church for the 8:00 A.M. was over a city block long and wrapped around another city block! I wondered if I were even going to get into the building. Luckily, even though the church was nearly full, I was able to get a seat in the fourth pew.

Fr. Ed Foley was the celebrant and homilist; just superb all the way around. And the music was, in a word, awesome. The final communion hymn soared and the cantor ad libbed as it built and it was a taste of heaven for me. I was so grateful for my parish and the Lord was truly risen in my heart once again.

When I walked out of the church, the lines for the 9:30 Mass were even longer than those for the 8:00.

The city closes the street to vehicular traffic on Easter Sunday. As I walked back toward my car, I thought I heard Judy Garland and Fred Astaire's voices. Sure enough, the parish had placed a set of speakers on the sidewalk and "Easter Parade" was being played. Two horse-drawn wagons were close by for those families that wanted their own "on the avenue" Easter experience. Only here it wasn't "on the avenue, Fifth Avenue," it was "on the avenue, Des Plaines Avenue." What a parish! The whole thing was such a hoot!

So, my different Easter Triduum drew to a close. It was a wonderful experience in so many ways; the highlight for me was the Good Friday walk for peace with Cardinal Cupich. I am attending a gala this evening, a fundraiser for Mundelein Seminary. I will seek out Cardinal Cupich and thank him personally for leading us on Friday and for the ways the Archdiocese is addressing the violence in Chicago.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Way of the Cross in Chicago

Easter greetings on this Wednesday of the Octave.

I posted yesterday about my different experience of Holy Thursday this year. Well, Good Friday was also different for me as well.

Those of you who read this blog regularly know about my frustration with the lack of attention paid here in Chicago to the rising violence and the unfathomable amount of murders that occur here nearly each day. The Archdiocese of Chicago, under the leadership of our shepherd, Cardinal Cupich, has launched an initiative to address this critical issue. Many of you know that I wrote a letter expressing my own frustration to Chicago's mayor a few months ago. I wrote the letter in late December and have yet to receive an acknowledgment or reply.

Part of Cardinal Cupich's initiative was the Archdiocese of Chicago's sponsorship of an interfaith, intercultural walk for peace on Good Friday throughout the streets of Chicago's Englewood neighborhood, an area where many murders occur. So, rather than heading to a physical church building on Good Friday, I headed to the Englewood neighborhood, where I joined thousands of others who made up my Good Friday "church" that day. We prayed the Stations of the Cross, stopping at different points along the way.

Each station began with the traditional "We adore you , O Christ . . ." Then, at each station, a litany of names was read. These were the names of people murdered in the City of Chicago since January 1 of this year. So many were men between the ages of 18 and 32. We heard the names of children, some as young as two months, kids who were caught in the crossfire of gang violence.

At different times, we heard testimony from those whose lives are directly related to the violence that engulfs our city: a mother of a victim, a police officer, an EMT.

I was so moved when residents of the neighborhood came out on their porches or front stoops and waved at us as we walked by, thanking us for our support. We sang as we walked: blacks, whites, Hispanics, Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Rev. Jesse Jackson walked the whole walk.

I walked with a prominent member of Chicago's Catholic community and I asked him why representatives from the city's leadership were not in attendance. "Where is the mayor?" I asked. He told me that Cardinal Cupich told him that he had invited the mayor, whose response was something like, "I don't think this whole thing is a good idea; it's just going to draw attention to the issue." This made my resolve to continue to do whatever I can to support the Cardinal's initiative all the stronger. Then I asked this prominent Chicago Catholic, himself a priest, if he was leading or attending a Good Friday service later in the day in a church in the city. He simply said, "No, this is my service for today."

Jesus falls three times. Jesus takes up his cross. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem. Jesus is nailed to the cross. Jesus dies on the cross. All of these things are happening in this neighborhood, across the country, and across our fragile world every single day.

The Way of the Cross last Friday moved me deeply.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Different Holy Thursday

Greetings during this Easter Octave of joy.

My experience of the great three days this year was a little different for me. I had a very long delay in a late afternoon dental appointment on Holy Thursday and got caught in horrible Chicago traffic, so was not able to get back to the city in time to attend the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper. However, I did meet up with a colleague from WLP and his son, who were visiting the altars of repose in several downtown churches, particularly the Polish parishes. So my Holy Thursday observance this year included visits to four downtown Chicago parishes. Here are some photos I took of the various altars of repose in those churches, Saint Stanislaus, Holy Trinity, and Saint Mary of the Angels.

If you are ever looking for a pilgrimage during a future Holy Week, consider visiting Chicago. The areas around these churches on Holy Thursday night are loaded with buses; people from the surrounding suburbs travel from their own parishes to visit these city parishes. Some of the parishes provide information about the parish as part of their hospitality outreach during the night. Here's what the front steps of one church looked like as the folks came off their buses:

Tomorrow, I'll share what was a remarkable Good Friday experience with you.

Happy Easter!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.