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Transcendent tunes: Encountering God through music

Jerome P. Monachino, director of liturgical music at St. Michael's College, plays a tune on his guitar on the campus of the Colchester Catholic college. “Prayer is the practice of the presence of God,” he says. “We [musicians] are charged with facilitating some of the prayer at Mass.” Photo by Cori Fugere Urban Jerome P. Monachino, director of liturgical music at St. Michael's College, plays a tune on his guitar on the campus of the Colchester Catholic college. “Prayer is the practice of the presence of God,” he says. “We [musicians] are charged with facilitating some of the prayer at Mass.”
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.
Last modified onMonday, 15 August 2016 14:39
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