Catholics Gather to learn, celebrate
More than 2,000 people attended the talks and the liturgies
By Jeff Kurowski
Compass Assistant Editor
|MEAL MUSIC: Oshkosh Lourdes Choir performs before a lunchtime audience Oct. 7 at The Gathering. (Rick Evans photo)
"If I make any mistakes it's because I'm exhausted," joked composer Jaime Cortez, who not only served as a featured presenter at last week's Gathering of the Church of Green Bay, but
also directed music for the event's opening Mass in the Schuldes Sports Center on the campus of St. Norbert College in De Pere. The two-day event, featuring approximately 200 speakers and several hundred workshops, attracted more than 2,000 people.
Cortez flew to Northeast Wisconsin from Mesa, Ariz., where he is the music director at St. Bridget Parish and a music teacher at Queen of Peace School.
"The people give me energy," he said. "This is a wonderful opportunity to bring people together. I've been inviting everyone here to visit St. Bridget. I mean that. Come to Mesa to see us. We are one church."
If Cortez was fatigued, he didn't show it. He warmed up by playing "Classical Gas" on his guitar before presenting "All Are Invited To Feast In the Banquet," one of three sectionals
he offered to Gathering participants. The presentation focused on being welcoming, inviting and encouraging in bringing people together in community. Cortez demonstrated how to use music to accomplish this goal.
"You want to make people feel as comfortable as possible," he said. "It's about setting a tone. It's about bringing people from different directions and heightening the unity."
Cortez, a native of El Salvador, stressed the importance of selecting music with good text, presenting new music before the start of Mass, and doing subtle things to enhance the
music such as dropping the music accompaniment during a verse to allow the human voices to project in song.
Hospitality is also a part of being welcoming, said Cortez, who also presented a Hispanic music ministry program at St. Willebrord Parish in Green Bay. He shared a story about a family that sat in the back of church when there were many open seats near the front.
"I assumed that they were sitting in the back because they really didn't want to be there," he said. "I suggested that they move closer to become more involved. The man explained to me that he just had knee surgery and was sitting in the back because it was the
only place where he could straighten out his leg. I felt terrible. I had made a judgment without understanding their needs. I should have been happy they were there. Many times we get caught in that."
Cortez and a group of vocalists and musicians opened the Gathering Mass with "Rain Down," which he wrote in 1991. Bp. David Zubik presided at the Liturgy.
"I'm thanking you for not only your presence here today, but also the inspiration you are individually and collectively," said Bp. Zubik.
The bishop then reflected on his fifth grade teacher, Sr. Mary Richard, a Felician sister who required her students to know the prepositions better than the Hail Mary.
"Here I stand before you today," he said, before reciting the prepositions in alphabetical order.
"A preposition is defined as a figure of speech that is relational," said Bp. Zubik. "I would like to reflect on the vocation that you and I have to be prepositions."
He explained that three energies-Eucharist, prayer and Mary-allow us to be prepositions.
"The Eucharist is the source and summit of the church," said Bp. Zubik. "Without the Eucharist, we would not be church."
"The second energy is the focus on the feast (Our Lady of Rosary) we have today," he added. "Through prayer we have a chance to reflect and meditate on the life of Jesus in those
glorious mysteries. We must also give attention and praise to the woman we honor today. Mary heard the word of Christ and cherished it in her heart. The annunciation was more than a momentary 'yes,' it was a 'yes' for her life, which gave us the gift of Jesus."
Bp. Zubik also challenged the Gathering participants to reflect, throughout the two-day event, on the gifts God has given them as leaders.
"We come here today so we may in fact be energized," he said in closing. "So we leave here today as the best prepositions of Christ. May we not only feel, but accept the energies that are with us through God. Connect others and invite them."
The Mass closed with "Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo" (We are the Body of Christ), which Cortez wrote in 1994.
"Music and worship bring people together," said Cortez. "When we come together it's a collective moment. Sundays in your parish are not individual, they are communal. This (Gathering) is the body of Christ united today to give glory to God."