When this exhibit began, we knew many Maryknollers around the world have strong connections to music. With this in mind, we reached out to these missioners and gave them the opportunity to discuss their thoughts and memories of music.
Here we share their reflections about music and its impact on their mission work and their personal lives.
Reflections on Prayer
I’ve always been a firm believer that ‘She who sings prays twice’!
Music uplifts the spirits of all. There is a saying that goes like this: Singing once is like praying twice.
The Jewish saying is that those who sing pray twice. That is how I feel. Music is raw emotion for me. It connects me to my deepest self, the hidden self beyond thought. And I think that is where God is most accessible to us.
Reflections on Spirituality
Sister Silvia Pacheco
The beauty of music, the beauty of nature, speaks to me of the beauty of God.
Maryknoll Affiliate Bob Short (former Lay Missioner)
Like so many of the most important things, feeling connected to God via music is something I know intuitively more than analytically. I feel an increased connection and I know God’s presence through music.
Heidi Cerneka, Lay Missioner
Music is a huge part of my grounding. Songs and music take me deeper and focus me far better than words.
Music As Language
Music During the Pandemic
I have worked with music especially during the pandemic. Beethoven always connects me to God. My spirituality is nourished, enhanced by playing the piano. I love to play at our liturgies, it makes the Eucharist fuller!
Music in Mission
Everything was about music while I was at mission in Guatemala – marimba, guitar, and singing. Singing songs in Spanish and Q’eqchi” helped me learn the languages. Everything began with music – las Mananitas for birthdays and special events, Las Posadas at Christmas, and health promoter classes. Celebrations of the Word were full of music when we were visiting villages for clinics with the health promoters. Mostly, the health promoters would play guitar when we started each day’s class with the day’s scripture reading, reflection, and a song. However, with the Health Promoter Coordinator group, I taught them “Un Millon de Amigos” and that became their special song as a group.
Jane Redig, former Lay Missioner
[My coworker] Byung-Gu and I started a choir made up of staff and patients [at the Korean National Leprosarium] and I played piano while he directed. At the time the island was segregated with patients living on one side and staff living on the other and we usually only crossed over for work. Byung-Gu and I wanted to try and find a way to bring everyone together in a different kind of way. The choir proceeded to sing at various community events and even sang for Pope John Paul II when he visited the island… I think of all the times where we were involved in music-making of one sort or another helped us reach each other, to see each other better, and to delight in the joy of it all, as well as be comforted and find peace when it was needed during often-difficult times in life.
Barbara Pavelka, former Lay Missioner
“Many Spanish church hymns in the 1970s and 1980s connected closely to the issues of justice and peace, during a time of war in [Guatemala]. They were revolutionary, inspiring, and meaningful.”
“While in Dar es Salaam I joined a couple of choirs (one a church choir, another a community choir) and these choirs brought so many people of so many different backgrounds and interests together. Music was the vehicle for making life-long friendships.”
Alex was 11 when I met him [in El Salvador]. Like so many kids in La Esperanza, he was bored out of his mind. But the day I showed up at his house with a wheelbarrow full of books from our mobile library and a guitar on top, he perked up. We practiced a few chords and he asked if he could keep the guitar. “It’s like a book. You can keep if for up to six months as long as you’re still practicing.” We practiced and now he’s playing a few songs. His favorite is Madre de los Pobres. He has become a member of the church choir and often travels to religious events in San Salvador.
In Venezuela, my main ministry was a community grocerty store but a secondary ministry was music. I learned the local instruments and culture and then helped teach them to children in the community…
[T]he highlight of the classes was playing Aguinaldos in the community. This is similar to our tradition of caroling but we don’t play for the homeowner, but to the Baby Jesus in the manger scene at the house. It didn’t matter how humble or extravagant the display, we would sing to Jesus. I loved it.