Stepping out of their rectories, monasteries, and convents and into your TVs, radios, and concert halls
Before Cecilia, I had heard of maybe one or two people on this list, like Suor Cristina and Fr. Pontifex. They seemed like a novelty, a unique breed; and they are, in their respective countries. But then I realized that there are others like them, across the globe, in every musical genre.
They are priests and religious who have a gift for music. Most of them share the same story: They were passionate about music, some of them even doing it full time, but when they answered the call to the priesthood or religious life, that meant giving up their music career…or so they thought. God called them back to music; He had given them a gift and He wanted them to use it for His glory. Their music became a vocation within a vocation, a way to connect with people and evangelize.
So, here it is, our short list (because there are many more) of priests and religious using their musical gifts for the glory of God:
Fr. Rob Galea | Australia
He vowed he would never become a priest. Priests were too boring. Then he met an Italian priest who was alive, who was passionate about everything he did. Fr. Rob thought, If I’ll be anything like this man, I’ll consider becoming a priest. And so he did, and he has been anything but boring. Since appearing on the X Factor in Australia, Fr. Rob has released a number of music videos, including the first ever electronic dance music video from a Catholic priest. Read more about this priest who wants to “ruin the world for Christ” here.
Siervas | Peru
Catholics and non-Catholics alike have praised these rocking nuns: “I’m atheist, but I recognize their talent.” “I’m not Catholic, but I love their song. More honor to God,” read the YouTube comments. The sisters are part of a new religious community in Lima, Peru: The Servants of the Plan of God. From the beginning music has been a fundamental part of their mission, drawing closer to human experiences and giving a response to them from the light of faith. Read more about them here.
Friar Gabriel | Australia
Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use…a skateboard? Friar Gabriel, a Franciscan in Perth, is as skilled in Gregorian chant as he is on the skateboard. Under orders of his superior, Friar Gabriel goes once a week to the skate park to reach out to the young people there. The video above, featuring the friar’s vocals and his skateboarding tricks took home an Emmy in 2015. Read the whole story here.
Fr. Pontifex | USA
To his parishioners he’s known as Fr. Claude Burns; to the rest of the world he is Fr. Pontifex. He began rapping as a teenager and, like many of the people on our list of priests and religious, he thought he would be giving that up when he felt a call to the priesthood. The year he was ordained he was introduced to PhatMass and found himself back in the world of Catholic hip-hop. Fr. Pontifex is known both for his music, and his spoken word, like his “Why I Love Religion, And Love Jesus,” which was written in response to the viral video “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” Fr. Pontifex’s video was a big success, with almost a million views on YouTube to date.
Eucharistic Communicators of the Heavenly Father | Colombia
Try to watch these young salsa-dancing sisters without smiling and moving your hips to the beat. Their joy radiates. These young women are part of a female community in Colombia who have placed their talents for music and communication at the service of evangelization, offering them to the world as a bridge between God and mankind. Read more about them here.
Fr. Damián | Spain
He’s been labeled “the hipster priest” by Huffington Post. His name is Fr. Damián María Montes, and he is a Redemptorist priest and missionary in Madrid, Spain. Following in the footsteps of others like Sister Cristina, Fr. Damián appeared as a contestant on Spain’s edition of The Voice. He created quite a stir with his appearance on the show; one of the coaches even asked the priest to hear his confession. Read more about Fr. Damián and the story behind his music here.
Suor Cristina | Italy
This is a woman who doesn’t need much introduction. She is the one who started it all – the first religious to step out and shock the world singing in her habit on Italy’s The Voice. And in another first, the Italian sister went on to take a leading role in Rome’s production of the musical Sister Act, playing Mary Robert, the young and shy nun with a powerful voice. “I was given a gift and now I give it you,” says Suor Cristina about her music.
Franciscan Friars of the Renewal | USA
More Franciscans combining their athletic and musical skills: this time it’s the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal out of the Bronx, NY. You’ll probably have a hard time deciding which is more impressive: their beatboxing or their tricks on the court. Oh, and their dancing isn’t too shabby either (see 2:13 and on in the video). The video was a way for the friars to draw people’s attention in and to raise awareness for Mary’s Meals, an organization that provides meals for children in schools.
Fr. Albert Owie Ofere | UK
Fr. Albert is a Catholic priest working as a chaplain for the Nigerian Catholic community in England and Wales. The priest chose Afro-pop “because many people like to dance to Afro-pop music and using it to glorify God would help to win more souls for him.” His joy and love for God are contagious; watch the video above and you’ll see. And read more about him here.
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