Concerts and Appearances

Music and Moms Meet for Mary

By Heather Felton, Editor/Reporter
The Florida Catholic, Venice Edition

Photos courtesy of Heather Felton and The Florida Catholic.

FORT MYERS -- The Venice Diocese MOMS (Ministry of Mothers Sharing) group and Gretchen Harris are a match made in heaven.

MOMS is an eight-week spiritual journey for mothers in all stages of life. The ministry began in the Venice Diocese two years ago when Karen Debitetto, who had participated in it in Orlando, moved to Fort Myers and helped establish it there.

"When women go through this journey, they're looking for their gifts," Debitetto said.

Among those gifts is that of motherhood, she said. Often women view children as a gift, but forget that motherhood is a gift, as well.

Gretchen Harris is a Catholic recording artist from Los Angeles. She has always felt a special bond with the Virgin Mary and shows it in her music. She has an album called Sing of Mary, which is a compilation of well-known and popular songs about the mother of Christ.

"She's just so gentle, so warm," Harris said. "She's just so loving. She wants us to know that God exists and to love her son."

Last February, the two came together when Harris performed here as part of a MOMS retreat and training session for MOMS facilitators, Debitetto said. Harris performed songs from Sing of Mary during the event and was a huge hit.

On Aug. 31, members from the 11 parishes with MOMS groups welcomed Harris back for the Celebration of Mary at Resurrection Parish in Fort Myers. The event was a commemoration of the Sept. 8 birthday of Jesus' mother. In addition to Harris' performance, the event featured local speaker Colleen Spiro of St. Katherine Drexel Parish, Cape Coral, who talked about the Blessed Mother.

While here, Harris took the time to perform Sept. 4 during the first Home and School parents association fall Mass and meeting at St. Francis Xavier Parish, Fort Myers. The next day, she came back to St. Francis School to sing for the children in an afternoon concert.

"She sings pretty," said Eric Thumm, 12. "My whole family listens to music like this."

Michelle McGuire, 11, was also impressed. "It takes a lot of talent to get up and sing like that," she said. "It takes a lot of courage."

The children especially enjoyed her "Burger King story" about how she started singing for God. Harris told the children that several years ago she was pursuing an acting career. But time after time, the auditions went badly or the jobs involved doing things she didn't want to do.

On her last audition, she told the director that there was no way she was going to do what he wanted. She walked out and, on the way home, stopped at Burger King for a Whopper with cheese.

She looked at the burger and, as she was getting ready to take a bite, she said, "From now on all I'm going to do is sing for God. That's it."

The day after visiting the school, Harris performed at San Pedro Parish, North Port, said Betty Rodriguez, the coordinator for Family Ministry and MOMS at San Pedro Parish.

"It (Harris' music) almost goes perfect with our Ministry of Mothers Sharing," she said. "We're so lucky to have her in this diocese and it was such a blessing for Karen to find her."

Harris, who has three albums, Sign of Love, Sing of Mary and Hope for Tomorrow, is releasing her fourth album, Christmas Joy, in a few weeks. Her work has also gained her national recognition when she was nominated for New Artist of Year by the United Catholic Music and Video Association.

Although she has been asked to sing songs that are not religious, Harris said it just doesn't work for her.

"The closer to the Blessed Sacrament, the tabernacle, the more it comes together," she said.