Cantor enjoys ‘praying twice’

Larson says singing hymns at Mass is like praying two times

OSHKOSH — For Peg Larson, the biblical directive to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord” defines her spirit of giving to Most Blessed Sacrament Parish. “My primary gig is as cantor,” Larson said. “I love music. I always have. It speaks to me. Singing is praying twice.”

Your Catholic Neighbor: Peg Larson (Brad Birkholz | For The Compass)

Larson grew up in New Mexico and learned to volunteer through the example of her mother. She has sung her entire life. When she and her husband, Paul, moved to Oshkosh in 1987, music was a top priority in choosing a parish home.

She said St. Peter Parish, which since has been incorporated into Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, had a strong tradition of valuing music as part of its parish life and offered good quality music through its services. “The music in the parish has always been important to me,” Larson said.

Larson sings in the parish choir and also conducts the choir. As cantor, she leads the congregation in singing and proclaims the psalm and the Gospel acclamation and other parts of the Mass.

“Music brings a different perspective into the liturgy,” Larson said. “In a liturgical setting, we’re reinforcing the lesson of the Gospel, the lesson of the psalm, by doing it musically. Well-chosen music sets a tone for the Mass on whatever service it is for.”

She said the words of the music, the spirit and the melody all can reinforce the mood and the purpose of the liturgy. For instance, musical selections for Lenten services will tend to be more somber. Selections for funerals will be uplifting and focus on the hereafter. Selections for the Christmas season will speak to the holy birth and the joy and hopefulness of the season.

One of the most interesting things about music, Larson said, is how well it resonates with people. She said that even with Alzheimer’s patients, “who maybe don’t even know their own name anymore,” when they hear songs such as “Silent Night,” they remember all the words and will sing along.

“If they learned it in the original German, they still sing it that way,” Larson said.

Larson said she is grateful that she has had the opportunity to volunteer all her life because she didn’t have to work at a paying job. “I’ve had the luxury to volunteer as my full-time gig,” she said. “I get to pick and choose the things I feel can bring my community together.”

When her children were in school, she volunteered with many activities and helped coordinate the activities in which they were interested. This fall, she and her husband will co-chair the local United Way campaign, as her own mother once did.

“We all have talents that we’ve been gifted with, and we need to give back to God,” Larson said. “There also is a whole different level of understanding and involvement in a parish when you’re volunteering. You learn much more about your faith, much more about God and what a blessed life we have. God gave me the voice. I’d better use it for him.”

Your Catholic Neighbor

Name: Peg Larson

Parish: Most Blessed Sacrament, Oshkosh

Age: 60

Favorite saint: Cecelia

Words to live by: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”