By Katrina Genereux/Associate Editor, OND
From July 6-14, six youth from St. Joseph, Moorhead, took part in the 20th season of the National Catholic Youth Choir held each summer on the campus of St. John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota.
Fletcher and Anna Biby, Carolina and Zak Cabanela, Kaija Martin and Jacob Mayo auditioned and were accepted to the camp. Each day choristers took part in rehearsal, prayer and fun. The final four days of the camp were spent touring and performing concerts in Superior, Wisconsin; Mankato, Minnesota and Edina, Minnesota. The camp concluded on July 14 with a concert and Mass at St. John’s Abbey.
Kimberly Biby, mother of Fletcher and Anna, said her kids couldn’t stop talking about the camp when she picked them up.
“What I noticed and what warmed my heart about their experience was the appreciation they seemed to have towards the monks and religious life,” Kimberly said. “Both Fletcher and Anna enjoyed early Morning Prayer – it was soothing and contemplative.”
Anna said Morning Prayer with the monks – which involved chanting the psalms, meditation and personal prayer – was her favorite part of camp.
“It gave a great start to my day and helped me connect with God,” she said.
Fletcher enjoyed the rehearsals and concerts the most.
“It felt awesome to be part of a group that shared my passion for singing and joining our voices together in praising God,” he said.
Kimberly said the camp was an edifying experience for her children.
“Our Catholic faith is so rich. What I love about [it] is that our children get to experience and dive into our faith traditions in a whole new way. They learn different ways of leading the congregation in the music liturgy. They gain confidence to share their talents and love of God,” Kimberly said.
Jodi Mayo said her son Jacob, who is also part of the choir at St. Joseph, gained confidence from connecting with other choristers.
“These are youth that have similar passions and views on this world and the next and it’s easy to see he has made connections,” Jodi said. “Jacob had independence in this camp that allowed him to not only improve his technical vocal skills, but also gain lifetime friends.”
Jacob appreciated building relationships with choir members – especially on the bus during their tour. He said everyone’s enthusiasm and togetherness was very apparent. He also was pleased with the music the choir sang.
“It’s fun making a great sound that expresses your joy and peace and anxiety and all the feelings we have as teenagers. God helps us through the music,” Jacob said.
Jodi said attending the concert and hearing the choir sing during Mass was inspirational.
“It’s obvious that these kids feel what they are singing, and they feel the Mass and they motivate others to feel the Holy Spirit,” she said. “I think the students feel they are doing something good as well – they are inspiring other kids and people.”
Sixteen dioceses were represented by the 35 choir participants this year. For its 20th anniversary, the choir focused on the parable of the Good Samaritan, performing pieces focused on serving of neighbors.
Andre Heywood, an instructor in the music department at St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict directed the 20th anniversary choir. The National Catholic Youth Choir was founded in 1999 by Benedictine Father Anthony Ruff, and has hosted more than 300 choristers from across the nation during its 20 years.
Next year’s camp will take place June 20-28. Click HERE for more information.
Editor's note: Story was updated on July 31, 2019 with the accurate name of a youth participant.