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Joe Lang knows all the children’s classics. Itsy Bitsy Spider, check. Alice the Camel, check. ABCs/Twinkle Twinkle/Ba Ba Black Sheep, check. (He performs those three in sequence, “same tune, different song.”) Strumming his guitar and singing in a cheerful voice, Lang led a singalong for the “holy people” at Jean Vanier School one day last month. It’s a place he says he doesn’t get to often enough. Through his day job as a religious consultant with Regina Catholic Schools, and as a Catholic Church deacon, outreach is Lang’s call of duty. “When I get the chance and the opportunity, I just listen to kids’ stories. That’s the biggest thing, sit and listen,” said Lang. Part therapist, part problem-solver, Lang is a support to teachers and students who need an ear. He’s a resource to answer their questions — about faith, family or otherwise. He can speak from experience: A deacon isn’t necessarily unmarried, like a priest or a bishop. Lang and his wife Rae-Lynn have four children, ranging in age from 15 to 24. He credits his “angel” of a partner for supporting him in “the equivalent of 18 full-time jobs.” “His preaching — including about the challenges and joys of being a parent, of family life — has a more immediate ring to people,” said Archbishop Donald Bolen, who has known Lang for 25 years. Lang’s is a “practical” faith, Bolen added, “rising out of the challenges of family life and serving others in the complexities and challenges of their lives.” Not all of Lang’s time is as a pseudotherapist, though. He helps prepare liturgies and music ministry in schools. And sometimes that means a simple concert. In the advent to Christmas, he carolled with children and seniors, and returned to Jean Vanier School for another, more festive, singalong. The children are upbeat when Lang visits, bobbing their heads to the music, ringing bells, clapping clappers and shaking shakers. Most can’t sing along — only three of the students are verbal at this school for kids with intensive needs. But the adults can. So at one point, with none of the school’s staff playing chorus, Lang joked, “I’m singing a solo. That’s not good.” Lang is a funny guy and self-described as a bit “over the top sometimes.” He can take a joke as well as he can make one. He’s a fast talker, alternately soft-spoken and boisterous. He incorporates humour into prayer, but in “a very appropriate way,” said Dean Schwebius, principal at St. Michael Community School. Sometimes it’s a little edgier — something like “Dear Lord, help us not burst into flames.” “I’m always sort of listening, like ‘what’s he going to say next?’ ” said Schwebius.
Photo: Don Healey / Regina Leader-Post