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Transcendent tunes: Encountering God through music

Jerome P. Monachino was one of three children born into a musical family, and by age five he was playing guitar; “The Spirit Is a-Movin” and “City of God” were the first songs he played.
Because his mother was a church organist, he grew up with liturgical music. In fact, when he stopped being an altar server and became an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, he took every opportunity to be involved in music ministry.

In high school he studied vocal music and was a member of the chorale and jazz acapella group and joined rock and roll fusion bands.

At St. Michael’s College in Colchester, he earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental science. After graduating in 1991, he worked for a year as an analytical chemist.

But the music never left him.

In 1992, Monachino got his first liturgical music job at St. Michael’s where he is now director of liturgical music.

Almost 25 years later, Monachino — who earned a master’s in systematic theology at the college in 1997 ­— is doing what he loves through the ministry of music.

“Prayer is the practice of the presence of God,” Monachino said. “We’re charged with facilitating some of the prayer at Mass.”

For Monachino, music is prayer. It is a way for him to encounter God in the four-fold presence at Mass: word, Eucharist, people and priest.

Monachino directs two liturgical ensembles and singers at St. Michael’s College: One is active during the school year and consists mostly of students, and the other is a year-round group consisting largely of adult members of the worshipping community. Sometimes he combines the groups for special events.

He tries to incorporate various elements into the music so that everyone is inclined to sing — American swing and African components are common, but music with an Irish tone is sometimes included too. “We have a diverse population at the college,” he said. “Our job is not just to expose people to different styles of music but to help them encounter the God of all people.”

His challenge is to lead people to a greater encounter with Christ “despite their appetite for a particular liturgical [style].”

If liturgical music facilitates people’s encounter with the Risen Christ, “I can’t over emphasize its importance,” he said. “It could make or break somebody’s experience of liturgy.”

For him, “it’s all about getting people to participate.”

His favorite liturgical season is Ordinary Time. “The ordinary becomes transparent to the transcendent,” he said. “Music is extraordinarily ordinary because it is infused with God’s presence and God’s grace.”

Monachino also is coordinator of liturgical music at St. Anne’s Shrine in Isle LaMotte and a music minister at Holy Family and St. Lawrence churches in Essex Junction. He is part of the Pneuma Liturgical Ensemble and a member of the jazz groups Eight 02 and Gravel.

Monachino lives in Underhill with his wife, Claire, and their children, Olivia, 16, and Dominic, 13.

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer.
  • Published in Parish

Project Rachel: Providing post-abortion hope, healing

More than two dozen priests gathered at Holy Family Parish Center in Essex Center on Jan. 13 for "Project Rachel: Providing Hope and Healing in the Year of Mercy," a five-hour training session focusing on post-abortion trauma and the healing power of sacramental confession.

A Catholic Church-sponsored post-abortion healing ministry, Project Rachel comprises a network of specially trained caregivers, including priests, lay staff, volunteers and mental health professionals. In the Diocese of Burlington, Project Rachel operates an anonymous hotline and offers both day-and weekend-long retreats focusing on individual healing in a group setting (See information on page 18).

The Jan. 13 program was aimed at helping priests identify and respond to the pastoral needs of those wounded by abortion.

"Of all the elements of Project Rachel, sacramental healing is central," said Julia Lewis, a licensed clinical mental health counselor and Project Rachel retreat Leader. She presented a session about the effects of abortion and ways to heal the wounds it causes which "are often profound and complex and affect every aspect of a person's life."

Post-abortion healing calls for special training because, she said, "it often involves psychological trauma, which requires more specialized treatment to integrate the spiritual and psychological healing."

According to the Guttmacher Institute that collects data on abortion, one in three women in the United States will have had an abortion by age 45. It also reports that 28 percent of women having abortions are Catholic.

When one considers that several people may be involved in a given abortion – such as grandparents, fathers, friends or other relatives – there are no doubt many Catholics who might need sacramental healing from involvement in abortion.

Despite this, priests don't always hear a lot of confessions about abortion, noted Father Henry P. Furman, one of the program presenters. "Here is where Project

Rachel and Rachel's Vineyard come in and why we have a five-hour inservice for priests occasionally," he said. "These apostolates can help in the healing process, in reparation for past sins."

He noted that "Vicki Thorn, the founder of Project Rachel, compared living with the memory of an abortion to holding a beach ball under water. You can do it for a while but eventually it will come up, and often quickly and forcefully."

With its emphasis on confidentiality, Project Rachel can help break long-held silences around abortion and lead to healing, said Lewis. Abortion is often shrouded in shame and silence, and for a person who has been involved in an abortion to come forward to seek healing can be very difficult. Many people wait decades after the abortion before seeking help, she explained, adding that it is not unusual for retreat participants to be in their 60s, 70s and even 80s.

It is important to the healing process for a person to know that he or she is not alone and that others have experienced similar feelings, Lewis said. The retreat experience facilitates such recognition.

It also involves a number of activities designed to help the participant find forgiveness, particularly from her-or-himself, as well as from God. Often people with post-abortion trauma don't believe they can be forgiven, and Project Rachel brings them into direct contact with God's mercy, she said.

"I've always seen the retreats as part of the new evangelization. I've seen people's faith come alive as a result of the healing that takes place. It brings people to Christ in a very powerful way," Lewis said.

 
  • Published in Diocesan
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