While David has had a very exciting, diverse, and creative life of ministry over the years, he has always believed in the core ministry to be parish based, and the span of his entire life has included a wide tapestry of various pastoral settings.
Born in 1957 in Saginaw, Michigan, David was baptized at St. Christopher’s Church in his hometown of Bridgeport, and remained active there through his college and mid-college years.
It is here where he received First Eucharist and was confirmed (his older brother Jeffrey was his sponsor), and his parents had leadership roles at St. Christopher’s in many different areas over the years. His father was the primary organist for years, and procured the organ that is there still in the worship space to this day. He also served as a catechist and was chairperson of the parish council for several years. His mother was choir director, song-leader, also a catechist, and Director of Music for several years up until her retirement as a school teacher in the area public schools. As a young boy, David was a boy soprano soloist for special liturgical feast days throughout the year. It was during his elementary school years there where he first was exposed to the liturgical music explosion that was taking place in the Church (this was the 1960’s), and the local seminarians would come and lead their CCD classes in the early music of people like Joe Wise and Ray Repp.
David and Jeffrey were altar boys all the way through their high school years, and of course, together with their younger sister Colleen, they were involved in music ministry, with their parents; it was during this time as a teenager when David began to play guitar in church, and began to become active in the parish folk group – coming to know the repertoire of not only Repp and Wise, but also the music of the Dameans, Jack Miffleton, and others. Way back then, he and his Dad implemented the guitar and organ together well before it became common place. St. Christopher’s was a very progressive parish during the years that David was there.
In the fall of 1975 David attended Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, MI, and worshipped at St. Mary’s University Parish.
After two years at CMU, he took a year off to discern his future, and became involved again at St. Christopher’s where he spent a year working with his mentor, Sr. Roberta Kolasa, SJ, who was the Religious Education Director for Youth. He became active as a catechist and as a youth leader in their retreat program and for the parish youth group. In the last few years, funeral celebrations for both of David’s parents and his Aunt/Godmother have been celebrated there.
It was during this year that David was discerning entering the seminary, so while remaining active at St. Christopher’s (which is now St. Francis de Sales – due to the merging of three different parishes in recent years), he began to become involved pastoral music ministry at three rural parishes in the Saginaw Diocese, at Sacred Heart Church in Bad Axe, and especially at St. Roch’s in Caseville, and their mission parish of St. Felix in Pinnebog (which has closed in recent years).
His involvement at St. Roch’s became so engaging, that upon their retirement, David’s parents moved there (Caseville is right along some beautiful shoreline of Lake Huron), and so his involvement continued for a few years, and his parents became involved there as parish musicians as well. During this same busy year, David helped out with the school liturgies at St. Casimir’s in Saginaw (now named St. Francis of Assisi), where his brother Jeffrey was on the faculty, and also helped to lead music in the summer of 1978 at St. Josaphat’s in Carrollton (now it is named St. John Paull II parish). It was during this discernment year that David began to compose some of his earliest liturgical music.
After his year of discernment, David moved to Minnesota to attend the seminary to study for the Diocese of Saginaw, at St. John Vianney Seminary, on the campus of the University of St. Thomas. He became very involved both in the liturgical life of the seminary composing music, and also as a cantor at the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel on the UST campus.
In the midst of his studies, David took on a part-time ministry role in 1980 at Blessed Sacrament Church on the east side in St. Paul, where he took over the directorship of the parish folk group there that led music for their Saturday evening Mass – his time there lasted two years.
Then David took a leap of faith when he took on his very first full-time parish ministry position as Director of Music and Youth Ministry at Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart Church in Ankeny, Iowa; a northern suburb of Des Moines. His tenure there was short, as he longed to be back in the twin city area, but it was during this short time in Iowa when he composed “We Have Been Told.”
So, in the fall of 1982, he returned north back to the twin cities, and accepted a position as Director of Youth Ministry at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in St. Paul Park, Minnesota, a suburb of St. Paul. During this time is when David began to compose liturgical music in earnest, and deepened his working relationships with Marty Haugen and Michael Joncas. David composed a lot of music during his time at St. Thomas Aquinas, including the well-known Mass of Light Gloria, and other pieces such as Blest are They, Now We Remain, We Will Rise Again, You Are the Voice, We Are Called, The Harvest of Justice and many others – leading to his first two nationally recorded and published collections with GIA, “We Have Been Told” and “To Be Your Bread.” In addition to directing three choirs and coordinating all of the parish liturgical ministries, David was very much involved in the parish RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults), as well as other parish ministries. David accounts his three years at St. Thomas Aquinas of having a deep impact on his ministerial work from that point forward.
When the demand was coming his way to travel more and more, he made the difficult decision to leave STA, and took on a part-time position as Composer-in-Residence at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity in 1985, where for three years, in addition to composing for the community and doing some adjunct teaching, he was very involved in the liturgical and prayer life of the chapel community with Sue Seid-Martin and Bonnie Faber. This residency allowed him the freedom to accept more and more offers to present workshops and concerts around the country and beyond, especially in the areas of liturgy, music, and Christian Initiation. His collection of musical settings for morning and evening prayer, “Light and Peace” was music composed specifically for the Divinity school community.
Having missed parish life, David’s good friend Mary Werner invited him in 1991 to be a part-time pastoral musician, cantor and pianist at St. Thomas the Apostle parish in Minneapolis, where she still serves as Director of Liturgy and Music to this day. David played for parish liturgies and sacramental celebrations for this wonderful community for four years.
In 1997 David felt the itch to work with young people, and approached his good friend Kate Cuddy who was the director of choral music at Benilde-St. Margaret’s School (a 7-12 grade school in St. Louis Park), if they might desire to have someone come and work with students in the area of liturgy and music. David served there for 13 years as a part-time faculty member in both the music and theology departments, and played and conducted music for various liturgical celebrations for both the student body and other special celebrations there. Then in 2011 he went to the other side of the twin cities to serve as a part-time member of the wonderful campus ministry team at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, where was the coordinator of liturgical music and formed the first dedicated school liturgical choir. While there, together with many of the students he produced a recording of music that he composed especially for the CDH community called “God is Everywhere!” with GIA Publications, and began a monthly gathering of what became the Cretin-Derham Hall Taize’ Prayer Community that met together until 2019, that gathered together people from all over the greater twin city area.
Off and on for the past 18 years, David was a frequent pianist for the liturgical celebrations at Our Lady of Victory Chapel at the University of St. Catherine in St. Paul, and more recently, often plays for the various liturgical celebrations at the Chapel of the Presentation, both communities of the St. Paul Province of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, where he assists Lori True when she calls upon his help. He has enjoyed praying with the Sisters and finds it to be a refreshing and progressive witness in the Church.
And ever since 1997, David, together with his wife Helen, have been proud members of a wonderful parish community in the St. Anthony region of St. Paul, the Church of St. Cecilia, where they both have served on the parish liturgy committee, and where David has served as a cantor as well. A small community of about 350 families, this has been their spiritual home and community – a community that is filled with amazing singing from the assembly (true to its patron), and wonderfully-hearted people and prophetic preaching.
It has been a wonderful journey for David to be a part of so many blessed and diverse praying and faith-filled communities over the years – all of them, in different ways, have touched his life, his ministry, and his faith. (7.6.19)