By Julia Johnson Photo credit: Royalrosaries.net / Peter Riedel There are people after talking to whom you become a better person. I was lucky enough to do this interview with two incredible person Father Wayne Pittard from St. Pius X Catholic Church and Vince Ambrosetti. We talked about Faith on Fire Missions, Mather Teresa, music, millitary missions... So join us! What you need to know about Vince Ambrosetti: On October 4, 1977, Vince founded International Liturgy Publications, the oldest free-standing non-profit publisher of sacred music for the Catholic church. He was named Catholic Artist of the Year in December 2001, and has been honored with seven other Unity awards for his music. Vince sang his song "Sanctuary" during Communion at Mother Teresa’s funeral in Calcutta, India.He has composed, recorded and, by invitation of the Vatican, performed for Pope John Paul II, the first English Mass Setting ever sung at St. Peter Basilica in Rome. His music has been placed in the Vatican archives alongside the works of Vivaldi, Puccini, Verdi and Corelli.Vince completed his studies in Systematic Theology at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indana. He was nominated for three Grammy Awards. In addition to his graduate studies in Theology, Scripture, Sacrament and Pastoral Ministry, Vince’s undergraduate disciplines include Public Speaking/English Literature and Music Composition. Today, Vince travels the US giving concerts and faith enriching parish missions through Parish Mission.Org. To learn more, go to www.ParishMission.org Julia Johnson: Father Wayne, tell us please, how did you come to invite Vince Ambrosetti? Father Wayne Pittard: I've been thinking about a mission and I get a lot of material and you get an off and on from different places and so I've just been looking at it and I put a fire on. As I began to think about it more, I began to pull out the fire on and look at this person, "No, I don't think so. This one, maybe... I'll hold on to that for a moment." And this, just kind of went through it and constantly went back and bit by bit, "Hmm, let me find out more about that," and then I would get in line and kind of look and did find out a little bit more and then, it was almost like, "Yeah, this is the one." Vince Ambrosetti: That's right. Father Wayne: And what happened then is, after making the decision here, it's like "Well, I'm sorry. We're tied up here. We're booked up here. We can't do that," and he's like, "Ah." So we decided we were going to do it maybe later after I left because I want to do this before I retired in June of 2018. So, I was going to, "Oh my God, maybe the parish would do it with the new guy and that'll be a good, new beginning then."So, I said "That'd be good. I can just let go of that." Well then they called and said, "Well, we do have this state." "Really?" And so, we quickly checked and they were like, "Yes, yes. Take it." So, and it was with Vince, with the one that I really wanted to come here. Just when I read about him, and just what I sensed to just like, "Yup, he's the one I wanted." It's been several months. They are very good at walking through. This is what it involves. This is where it ends. So they literally give you logistics. "These are the things you need. These are the things when you need to do things there. A month beforehand, you need to do these. Two weeks, you need to do these. Here's a sign up for your volunteers. Here's the readings that we've been using." So I mean, they give you a whole notebook and it can scare you or you can say, "Oh this is great, and just, so I said like, "What do we do? What do we do?" They really just kind of help walk you through the process and so that was a blessing that we did not even know we were gonna get. So, we were able to do that and then bit by bit, got closer and closer. We begin to talk with the people, not so much with Vince but the other people of his team who were coordinating everything because at that point, he was doing other missions and messing with other people. And so, the people he has who does all the planning were helping us do that and so that I first had met Vince when he came down the stairs at the airport. I had a little sign that said, "Faith on fire." The only thing to know it was me. That the spirit that bug me to get him was right because, last night, even though it was stormy, even though the weather was terrible when we got off, we had between 350 and 400 people there that night that came for that. And so we think we even have more every next night. So I think it was a good beginning and especially with the weather last night but now, it's sunny. So, that's what brought him and it's a blessing and like I said, for me it was kind of like a gift that I wanted to give to this parish who’s been so good and whenever a new Pastor or Pastor leaves that you like, everybody goes, "Oh no, oh no." I'm sorry. I wanted to give them hope and courage that God will continue to be with them, to stir that goodness, to set a flame that big that they have, just for them to remember that they already have it. They just have to like, "Oh, that's right. We can do this," and that's what he's doing and that's the positiveness of his message that I read and everything which is what I was looking for. Julia Johnson: Wonderful. Vince, please tell us more about the “Faith on fire” mission. Vince Ambrosetti: We've been so privileged to share these missions now for many years. Our organization is 40 years old and the missions that's on the publishing side and the missions, we really moved into about 30 years ago, pretty heavily. And, what we find is that they are occasions for revitalization, for intensifying our faith, for visiting the matters of our lives that have really great value as opposed to the things that don't. But it's a wonderful way to bring a parish family together as a family of families, and revisit the whole concept of what we call the journey of the sacraments, the journey of our faith, the journey of coming to a deeper and richer - not just appreciation and not just understanding but let's just say, in a passionate embrace for who we are and what we are called to do. So I really believe, it's also a wonderful opportunity to bring people back, who maybe have become way tend to or not as involved in - the world around us gives us a gazillion reasons to not be involved in our faith and this, what the mission does, is it helps us restore an understanding of why we ought to be exercising our faith in our life. So, I ask the people who are coming to be kind of the first line if you will, reaching out to others that they might come and experience that as well. We have a number of people to go and get to these missions. One of the things that's unique about think of Fire Missions, is that we incorporate the use of music in a very particular way. Because I just happen to believe that music really is the language of the heart, the language of the soul. It expresses the inexpressible, where words and ritual and music begins. And sometimes what it does is it helps us to touch the beauty and the wonder and the great love of God in a way that words cannot, that we can't just express in words. And, when you couple that with Scripture, set beautifully to music, now you've got something really powerful going on and I think that it would be hard for people to come to one of these experiences and not leave in some way changed. This is not because of me. It's not even because of the music. It's the combination of the word proclaimed, the ritual you experience, the beautiful primordial images of our faith with water and fire, and then, the coming together with the faithful. There's something wonderful, last night, that there could have been 400 people there. The idea of those people going through that storm at Sunday night, to come here, in spite of the fact that-- right, Father Wayne? They could have just sat home and said, "I'm comfortable. I've got a fire burning. Listen, I'm in for the night. I'm cozy," but they didn't. They want and yearn for and made it clear that they are committed to making this journey with us and that's a beautiful thing, isn’t it? Father Wayne Pittard: Yeah. Vince Ambrosetti: Yeah. So, when it's all over, when we're done, your know our prayer was just that - as Father referred to this Sunday night in this commentary, he said, "We've start up the pile a little bit." That we just helped all of us to come to a heightened awareness and experience of God in our lives, because God is ever with us. God is ever working in our lives. God is ever calling us into a deeper more intimate relationship with Him. But often we do is, we get so busy and we fill our moments and we get-- we just get so caught off with all the stuff that's going on in our lives and, "Oh, I can't miss this television program and I can't miss this football game, oh and gosh I've got an evening plan with my friends at the local pub," but those things are incidental to our lives. What we're doing here is really at the heart of not just what matters but at the heart of who we are and to whom we belong, amen? Father Wayne Pittard: Amen. Julia Johnson: How this all started for you? Vince Ambrosetti: When I was six years old, just six years old, my sister was the music director in a Polish church in Baltimore and so, I started to learn a little Polish and I learned all Polish hymns like [sorry Vince can you add the name of hymn)))], I go to stations in Polish and stations in English, and 40 hours in Polish and 40 hours in English and when I was there for the choir and then we started - by the time I was seven, I would take the alto and the bass downstairs in the lower church to rehearse and she keep the soprano and tenor, and then we bring them together. When I turned nine, she got married and moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico with her young husband and I took over the music program for the parish at nine years old. I still laugh about it because one of my bass singer, Joe Drego, I still remember his name, would bring me a box of B a z o o k a bubblegum every week because they knew I love to chew bubble gum. I was up there in the choir while directing and chewing my bubblegum and sing and playing the organ. So that's kind of how it started. Yeah. Father Wayne Pittard: Good thing your sister did not see you. Vince Ambrosetti: I know. I would have been in trouble. You're right. You're absolutely right, but it was interesting. There was one priest who-- a poor guy, couldn't sing at all and his name was Father Richard and he would sing, "The Lord be with you," not is the best way . Bake in that time we have what we call, High Mass and Low Mass. So the High Mass was also sung, right Father Wayne? And he'd be up there, "The Lord be with you." So I went up to him and I said, "Father Rich." "Yes, Vincent?" "Would you consider not singing it the next Mass?" I did, and he said, I scarred him for life. He told the people at the next Mass. He said, "Vincent doesn't want me to sing in Mass," and they all applauded. Yeah. Oh, but I felt so badly afterwards because you know my mantra now. If you have a good voice, you use it to glorify God. If you have a bad voice, make them listen to it, right? But, anyway, so that's how things started and then in 1977, I had been in the seminary for a couple of years and I was returning from Rome for my studies there and I got the bishop to approve my departure in supporting this, starting this organization and, it was really amazing. I mean, we started out with the music of five different composers and we now publish a 120 plus people and we have over 2,000 titles and including Gift of Finest Wheat and Seeds Scattered and Sown and so many that you probably know but don't know where they live in, and just wonderful people that really give their hearts to serving the church and all, in a meaningful way, and give us music that touches us deeply. One of my favorites for example is Beth Ann Martinez in Los Angeles, wrote a beautiful Eucharistic hymn. We're going to use on Wednesday called Bread for the Broken, and it just speaks of the healing nature of Eucharist, of Eucharist as a gift, the presence of God that calls us to know the healing love of God. So, and there are so many different ways that we express all that. Julia Johnson: When you started writing music? Vince Ambrosetti: I started writing music when I was nine years old and actually, we have in publication, one of the songs I wrote when I was nine but we use it for the children. It's called 'Come forth my People' and the kids love it because I make them clap and dance while they're doing it. I mean, you know kids love these gestures but and so as the adult sometimes, right? So, but I got more serious about it when I was in college and then I went off to study with the French Priest by the name of Father Lucien Deiss and a Father Joseph Gelineau who were famous composers in the 1960's particularly during the Second Vatican Council. Then I went to study with Father Deiss at Westminster College at Princeton University at East of United States. He pulled me aside one day and he said, "Vincent, are you studying music?" I was in college at that point then I said, "Well Father, no, I love it too much and I don't want to ruin that." He looked at me and he said, "If you are to speak it well, you must learn the language." And then he said to me, "And if you're going to break the rules, you should know the rules first." Isn't that interesting? So I went back and I added, at that time, English Lit and Public Speaking in Public Speaking, that was my major and I've done that since I was in the seventh grade so I really enjoyed all of that. But I went back and added a second major and it was Music Composition and it was one of the best things that ever happened because again, he was right. You should know the rules in order to break them. I mean, it's been very, very helpful, not just with my music but also as a publisher of other people's music, I need to understand all that. Then I went on to enter the seminary and I studied Theology. First Philosophy then Theology, but I ultimately left and finished up my Graduate Studies in Theology at the University of Notre Dame. That wonderful holy place in Southern Indiana, that's right. Right, and for those of us who went to Notre Dame, I tease about this. We say that Southern Indiana is the Holy Land. So, but it was a great experience and I spent so many hours just writing hymns, writing songs, in the beautiful Basilican air on the campus, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. The other thing is, I've had the privilege of living in more than 700 records because at one point in my life, I went to work for a company. I was recruited by a company that was acquired by Merrill Lynch and I-- at the young age of 24, became the National Director of Training and Development for Merrill Lynch and its diversified financial services group. So my boss was a guy named Donald Reagan who while I was there, went to become the secretary of Finance and the Chief of Staff for Ronald Reagan. Do you remember that name? Yeah and so that-- it was a pretty heavy time and frankly, I acquired a lot of things. I bought a bunch of real estate and bought a couple of commercial buildings and I had like 27 residential properties and I was investing very smartly, and I was making more money than a 24-year old should ever make in life, right? And I had my Mercedes and I had my 8,000 square foot home and my expensive suits, and on March 23rd of 1987, I walked into the President's office at Merrill Lynch, on the National presence and I said, "You know, it's been great to be here but I'm turning in my resignation," and he said, "What are you going to do?" Now he was a Mormon with 13 kids, and he said, "What are you going to do?" I said, "Well, well Sam - I'm going to go and do ministry in the Catholic Church." He said, "However will you pay your bills?" I said, "I trust in God. That's what's going to happen." So, I sold everything off for over the next few years, sold off all over the State, sold off everything, got rid of everything I had and then donated it all to the non- profit that I had set up, that is our organization today, and I had no salary. I had no health insurance. I had no income of any kind. I hired an assistant. I had a small staff including a nun that worked in our office, now for the missions, and we went off with what I thought was going to be six or twelve months and I started this in 1992 with the first mission in Marietta, Georgia, just outside of Orlando. This is when we went full board. I mean, I've been giving talks and workshops after this point but this was getting in, in an extended cargo van with a rack of my clothes in the back, shared with my assistant, with all the publishing and materials in the middle and the equipment, the sound equipment on the side doors and we started in that first mission which I thought would last for six or twelve months, and from 1992 to 1999, for seven years, I lived in a different rectory every week, all across the country. I have to tell you, it was joyful. It was wonderful. It was great. I didn't have to think about burst pipes in the winter. I didn't have to think about a lawn that had to be mowed. I didn't have to think about running anything or doing anything. My group and Marilyn that was doing administration was self-contained and it was just all -- it was all great. I didn't think about where my next meal was coming from because just like Father Wayne, He's feeding me every day here, right Father? I mean, the local church would just-- it would take care of us. It would pay for us and I'd live in the rectory with my assistant, Lani, was his name at that time,and it was wonderful. I got to meet incredible priests. I got to meet wonderful people. I got to experience a mission every single week except Christmas and Easter for seven years and my parents thought I was nuts. You know, I mean I walked away from all that security, from all the business, from all of it and again, God has blessed all of that. So I can tell you this, it’s my final comment I’ll just say to you and all of it is I am never happier than when I am sharing an experience either in a convocation with priests, in prayer and in growing together in the ministry or in one of these parish missions as we make this journey because I have to take every single mission has its own personality. Every single mission is its own unique experience. Every single mission doesn’t just touch the folks in the pews, it speaks to my heart as well. So I come away with a greater sensitivity to God’s presence and love and I come away with a deeper appreciation for the self- emptying love of our God and I come away really believing more passionately and deeply than I did five days earlier. So for me it’s just a great privilege to be able to do this and at the end of it when we walk away, there’s a sadness that I have because I’m leaving now my family of this past week, you know, and I can tell you sincerely that it’s hard and that’s the poverty of what we do is that we leave here and next week we start all over in another parish in Scranton, Pennsylvania, right? And that’s just the way it is, you know, but what a wonderful privilege to do this work. I look back on my life and I will just tell you that I very, very humbly, truly, passionately believe that what I’m doing today is exactly what God created me to do and I’m not proud of that. I am -I’m just absolutely humbled by that to think that I would be so privileged that God would bring me into this world and I know that when I close my eyes for the last time, when I breathe my breath for the last time, we hope not soon but whenever that happens that I will be doing exactly what God need me to do. Isn’t that something? Julia Johnson: It’s wonderful. Vince Ambrosetti: I can only wish that for others as well, you know what I mean? You must know that. It’s an amazing feeling. It’s incredible. Julia Johnson: It’s amazing, yeah. And are you doing all these missions only in the United States or also you go abroad? Vince Ambrosetti: We’ve done missions in Italy, Ireland, Israel and the Philippines. And in the Philippines, Cardinal Sin, who had since past away, I love that name, he invited us over to do missions around Manila and Tagaytay and Cebu and it was amazing and the last event was a big mission that was televised in an arena that held tens of thousands of people and it was packed. And that’s when, you know that thing we do stretch out your hand? The Filipinos made that up. I wrote the song but the first time I used it was there and they made up the gestures, you know, so I’ve since carried it all over the places. Isn’t that amazing? So yeah we travel to other places as well. And we have initiative right now to carry the missions to military bases around the world as well but we will go wherever God calls us. In fact the Philippines just contacted us recently. They want us to come back and do a tour there and it’s wonderful because they’re just so responsive and it’s an amazing country too. But I will tell you this too, one comment I want to make, what I have discovered, I don’t care if it’s an 8,000 family parish, a 200 family parish, a group of priest in Ohio or wherever, your people are hungry for an intimate relationship with God, amen? Everywhere, no matter where we go. People are hungry for that and I think that they sense that these experiences will help them make that journey and I believe it so. One of the things I will tell you is my experience with Mother Teresa, I never hesitate to use her name because, not for me, but I know-- a lay came up to me last night and you know what she told me? She said I invited my friend to come and she hasn’t been to church in a while and I told her that you’re the guy that sang at Mother Teresa’s funeral and she said, okay, I’ll be there. So it’s not me and you know, when you have this little powerful four-foot something saint of God who everybody in the world knows, even still if you ask young people, do you know who Mother Teresa is... Julia Johnson: They know who she is... Vince Ambrosetti: They still know. Everybody knows who she is and I say she would be elated for us to use her name to bring people in to a deeper experience of God. Every mission has its own character and its own unique unfolding. I call it the blossoming of the bud in the full bloom. Julia Johnson: Can you please share us some memories about Mother Teresa and something special and how you met her. Vince Ambrosetti: Well, I’ll tell you a really funny story of Mother Teresa. It is a great one actually. So she-- I was always amazed that as she walk through a crowd, I never understood what the parting of the Red Sea must have looked like until I saw people spreading off to the side as this little tiny woman walks through the crowd. You know, and certainly moves to the side and she makes her way to the ticket counter and she has the procurator with her. That would be the nun in charge of the money for the missionary and she orders a ticket passage from the United States back to Calcutta and the lady said, okay, we can get tickets for you, two seats, is that right, Mother? Yes, okay. She says how much will that be? And the lady looked at her and handed her the tickets and said your money is no good here, Mother. She said, you’re never allowed to pay for a ticket on the stairwell. So listen so then they upgraded her to first class. Now, this is an international flight and on international flights, as you know, first class really is something. I mean, you know, fillet and caviar and you know, it’s incredible. So there’s Mother Teresa sitting in her first class seat. She very humbly went and sat down and she has her nun next to her and they come up to her and say, fillet, Mother? No, thank you. No, thank you. Okay. Caviar, Mother? No, thank you. No, thank you. So she finally she said, Miss, may I ask you a question? She said, how much more does it cost for someone to sit up here than back there? Then she said, well, Mother, I don’t know but I can ask the pilot and he can radio in and we can find out, you know. So she said, okay. I would like to know that, you know. So they radio in and they get the information and she comes back. Now, they’ve taken off already, right? She is still sitting there and the flight attendant comes back and says, well, the pilot just informed me that it was another $8,643.27 for you to sit here and the same amount for sister to sit with you. That’s what it would have been to pay for that ticket for you to be here. Well she got up, she stood up and she said, thank you for that information. She said and the nun on the side was calculating what that was and she said, please let your president of your airline know that we’re moving to the back and he owes my poor 17,000 whatever the number was [inaudible] and she just looked at her. So the nuns got up, they moved back to the coach and the president of the airline sent her the check. Now, remember it was a free ticket to begin with, right? But Mother Teresa said, you owe me $17,000 somewhat and the president of the airline felt he had no choice but to send her the money, right? So that’s the kind of power that true self-emptying love has in this world. I believe that. For whatever it’s worth and she was no shrinking violet. Oh I could tell you stories. I mean, she showed up at the Vatican unannounced and [inaudible] for money and you know, the Carmel in charge of the bank would have to give it to her even though I will say no. I mean, it was just incredible. So this lady had amazing power and influence and I think that’s because it was all about Jesus. It was all about Christ. It was never about her. It was always self-empty. Everything that she did was directed to self-emptying love. She’s an amazing person. She really is just and you know, and even in her dying, her legacy continues even in the dark night of her soul, right? Even in all that experience which does nothing but prove that she was a saint, she was clearly one who drew close to the crucifix and understood what that meant and made it evident in her life. So she’s had a great influence on me and if you continue to come to the mission I tell a couple of stories in the mission that are frankly, they’re going to blow you away. I mean, it’s just Mother Teresa stuff that is absolutely amazing. Julia Johnson: You played on Mather Teresa funeral. Tell please more about that experience. Vince Ambrosetti: Yeah. Well, it was a song that they have requested that I’ve written that Mother Teresa had heard called Sanctuary and it’s a beautiful song about the God who ever is our refuge, our sanctuary. It comes from Psalm 91, right? You all know that, right? And there’s a story for that too and that comes this week in one of the mission. So I’ll share more of the detail with you but it’s-- well, in fact I wrote a particular verse for Mother Teresa’s funeral that I’ve only used at her funeral but otherwise the song isn’t pretty broad publication around the country in a broad use. It’s a nice piece. Julia Johnson: How came the idea to create initiative to carry the missions to military bases? Vince Ambrosetti: Well, okay, this goes back to this. So I didn’t-- nor will I talk about this in the mission so you can jot this down when you have a chance but what happened was this, the second war in Iraq broke out and I got a hold of a friend of mine who was a two star general chaplain in the Pentagon and Father Bill [Vince here I again need your help] General [and here] and I said to him. Bill, I like to go to Iraq to do missions for the troops. Can we work that out? And it just started, you know, the conflict and he said, well, Vince you got to get a security clearance. Let me put you in charge with the chief of chaplains. So I got in touch with the chief of chaplains and we talked about this and he started on the security clearance. He called me back a couple of days later, maybe just a day or so later and he said, I got good news, bad news and good news. I said that sounds like a joke. He said, it’s not. He said the good news is we got your security clearance. The bad news is we can’t let you go because I don’t know if you’ve seen the news today but they just took the statue of Sadam Hussein down in the public square and things are getting very volatile there and we can’t send you over right now. He said but the good news is we’ve had a request for you to go to one of our military bases and I said, well, how did that happen? He said, well it seems that 11 years ago you gave a parish mission in a parish called St. Jerome in Waco, Texas and that there was a little 9-year-old boy that came every night and insisted that his mommy who was a Baptist come with him and they sat in the front pew every night. He is now a 20- year-old Lance corporal and he’s been bugging his chaplain to bring you in. So apparently the chaplain has said if you will agree, Lance corporal Austin Stukins, that was his name, will be in charge of the mission. I said, okay. I’m going. Where are you sending me? He said, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii and I said-- I laughed and I said, wait, wait, wait I asked you to send me to Iraq and you’re sending me to Hawaii and he laughed and said, welcome to the US Military, Vince. So since that time we’ve given missions in a lot of military bases because I believe very, very deeply in the freedom that we have to be able to message, pray and gather in public and do what we do as Catholics and we are able to call ourselves Christians because we exercise that faith publicly without the fears of retribution in this country and I think that’s absolutely wonderful and of course we all have to admit that in spite of the fact that I don’t know if I could personally ever kill someone that I am very grateful for those that had defended our freedom to allow us to do this. Does that make sense, Father Wayne? I will just say to you again that I am deeply grateful for all that our military forces represent in defending our freedom. And because of that, by the way, when these guys are getting ready to go over into places of high risk, I want them to be fully immersed in their faith when they go. I want them to know Christ more intimately when they go and I want them to find it to be the most necessary piece of equipment on their person. I would like to be the Word of God in their pocket when they go. That’s what we want. So because of that, we believe that these military missions are certainly important and at present we’ve done a number again but I want to do a lot more as well. So that’s a wonderful initiative, huh? Father Wayne Pittard: With our military just so important and growing up on military bases, you know, I guess I know the depth of faith that are there and also how they rely on that, you know, when you have dads flying in their war zones, you know. My dad was flying into Vietnam on a regular basis, you know, so there’s always that apprehension, you know, what’s going to happen and came back and they talk about bullet holes in the tail. Where they’re taking off or landing and snipers would try to maybe hit a fuel line or hit
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Vince Ambrosetti: I never hesitate to use Mother Teresa name because it is not for me
Interview
By Julia Johnson Photo credit: Royalrosaries.net / Peter Riedel There are people after talking to whom you become a better person. I was lucky enough to do this interview with two incredible person Father Wayne Pittard from St. Pius X Catholic Church and Vince Ambrosetti. We talked about Faith on Fire Missions, Mather Teresa, music, millitary missions... So join us! What you need to know about Vince Ambrosetti: On October 4, 1977, Vince founded International Liturgy Publications, the oldest free-standing non-profit publisher of sacred music for the Catholic church. He was named Catholic Artist of the Year in December 2001, and has been honored with seven other Unity awards for his music. Vince sang his song "Sanctuary" during Communion at Mother Teresa’s funeral in Calcutta, India.He has composed, recorded and, by invitation of the Vatican, performed for Pope John Paul II, the first English Mass Setting ever sung at St. Peter Basilica in Rome. His music has been placed in the Vatican archives alongside the works of Vivaldi, Puccini, Verdi and Corelli.Vince completed his studies in Systematic Theology at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indana. He was nominated for three Grammy Awards. In addition to his graduate studies in Theology, Scripture, Sacrament and Pastoral Ministry, Vince’s undergraduate disciplines include Public Speaking/English Literature and Music Composition. Today, Vince travels the US giving concerts and faith enriching parish missions through Parish Mission.Org. To learn more, go to www.ParishMission.org Julia Johnson: Father Wayne, tell us please, how did you come to invite Vince Ambrosetti? Father Wayne Pittard: I've been thinking about a mission and I get a lot of material and you get an off and on from different places and so I've just been looking at it and I put a fire on. As I began to think about it more, I began to pull out the fire on and look at this person, "No, I don't think so. This one, maybe... I'll hold on to that for a moment." And this, just kind of went through it and constantly went back and bit by bit, "Hmm, let me find out more about that," and then I would get in line and kind of look and did find out a little bit more and then, it was almost like, "Yeah, this is the one." Vince Ambrosetti: That's right. Father Wayne: And what happened then is, after making the decision here, it's like "Well, I'm sorry. We're tied up here. We're booked up here. We can't do that," and he's like, "Ah." So we decided we were going to do it maybe later after I left because I want to do this before I retired in June of 2018. So, I was going to, "Oh my God, maybe the parish would do it with the new guy and that'll be a good, new beginning then."So, I said "That'd be good. I can just let go of that." Well then they called and said, "Well, we do have this state." "Really?" And so, we quickly checked and they were like, "Yes, yes. Take it." So, and it was with Vince, with the one that I really wanted to come here. Just when I read about him, and just what I sensed to just like, "Yup, he's the one I wanted." It's been several months. They are very good at walking through. This is what it involves. This is where it ends. So they literally give you logistics. "These are the things you need. These are the things when you need to do things there. A month beforehand, you need to do these. Two weeks, you need to do these. Here's a sign up for your volunteers. Here's the readings that we've been using." So I mean, they give you a whole notebook and it can scare you or you can say, "Oh this is great, and just, so I said like, "What do we do? What do we do?" They really just kind of help walk you through the process and so that was a blessing that we did not even know we were gonna get. So, we were able to do that and then bit by bit, got closer and closer. We begin to talk with the people, not so much with Vince but the other people of his team who were coordinating everything because at that point, he was doing other missions and messing with other people. And so, the people he has who does all the planning were helping us do that and so that I first had met Vince when he came down the stairs at the airport. I had a little sign that said, "Faith on fire." The only thing to know it was me. That the spirit that bug me to get him was right because, last night, even though it was stormy, even though the weather was terrible when we got off, we had between 350 and 400 people there that night that came for that. And so we think we even have more every next night. So I think it was a good beginning and especially with the weather last night but now, it's sunny. So, that's what brought him and it's a blessing and like I said, for me it was kind of like a gift that I wanted to give to this parish who’s been so good and whenever a new Pastor or Pastor leaves that you like, everybody goes, "Oh no, oh no." I'm sorry. I wanted to give them hope and courage that God will continue to be with them, to stir that goodness, to set a flame that big that they have, just for them to remember that they already have it. They just have to like, "Oh, that's right. We can do this," and that's what he's doing and that's the positiveness of his message that I read and everything which is what I was looking for. Julia Johnson: Wonderful. Vince, please tell us more about the “Faith on fire” mission. Vince Ambrosetti: We've been so privileged to share these missions now for many years. Our organization is 40 years old and the missions that's on the publishing side and the missions, we really moved into about 30 years ago, pretty heavily. And, what we find is that they are occasions for revitalization, for intensifying our faith, for visiting the matters of our lives that have really great value as opposed to the things that don't. But it's a wonderful way to bring a parish family together as a family of families, and revisit the whole concept of what we call the journey of the sacraments, the journey of our faith, the journey of coming to a deeper and richer - not just appreciation and not just understanding but let's just say, in a passionate embrace for who we are and what we are called to do. So I really believe, it's also a wonderful opportunity to bring people back, who maybe have become way tend to or not as involved in - the world around us gives us a gazillion reasons to not be involved in our faith and this, what the mission does, is it helps us restore an understanding of why we ought to be exercising our faith in our life. So, I ask the people who are coming to be kind of the first line if you will, reaching out to others that they might come and experience that as well. We have a number of people to go and get to these missions. One of the things that's unique about think of Fire Missions, is that we incorporate the use of music in a very particular way. Because I just happen to believe that music really is the language of the heart, the language of the soul. It expresses the inexpressible, where words and ritual and music begins. And sometimes what it does is it helps us to touch the beauty and the wonder and the great love of God in a way that words cannot, that we can't just express in words. And, when you couple that with Scripture, set beautifully to music, now you've got something really powerful going on and I think that it would be hard for people to come to one of these experiences and not leave in some way changed. This is not because of me. It's not even because of the music. It's the combination of the word proclaimed, the ritual you experience, the beautiful primordial images of our faith with water and fire, and then, the coming together with the faithful. There's something wonderful, last night, that there could have been 400 people there. The idea of those people going through that storm at Sunday night, to come here, in spite of the fact that-- right, Father Wayne? They could have just sat home and said, "I'm comfortable. I've got a fire burning. Listen, I'm in for the night. I'm cozy," but they didn't. They want and yearn for and made it clear that they are committed to making this journey with us and that's a beautiful thing, isn’t it? Father Wayne Pittard: Yeah. Vince Ambrosetti: Yeah. So, when it's all over, when we're done, your know our prayer was just that - as Father referred to this Sunday night in this commentary, he said, "We've start up the pile a little bit." That we just helped all of us to come to a heightened awareness and experience of God in our lives, because God is ever with us. God is ever working in our lives. God is ever calling us into a deeper more intimate relationship with Him. But often we do is, we get so busy and we fill our moments and we get-- we just get so caught off with all the stuff that's going on in our lives and, "Oh, I can't miss this television program and I can't miss this football game, oh and gosh I've got an evening plan with my friends at the local pub," but those things are incidental to our lives. What we're doing here is really at the heart of not just what matters but at the heart of who we are and to whom we belong, amen? Father Wayne Pittard: Amen. Julia Johnson: How this all started for you? Vince Ambrosetti: When I was six years old, just six years old, my sister was the music director in a Polish church in Baltimore and so, I started to learn a little Polish and I learned all Polish hymns like [sorry Vince can you add the name of hymn)))], I go to stations in Polish and stations in English, and 40 hours in Polish and 40 hours in English and when I was there for the choir and then we started - by the time I was seven, I would take the alto and the bass downstairs in the lower church to rehearse and she keep the soprano and tenor, and then we bring them together. When I turned nine, she got married and moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico with her young husband and I took over the music program for the parish at nine years old. I still laugh about it because one of my bass singer, Joe Drego, I still remember his name, would bring me a box of Bazooka bubblegum every week because they knew I love to chew bubble gum. I was up there in the choir while directing and chewing my bubblegum and sing and playing the organ. So that's kind of how it started. Yeah. Father Wayne Pittard: Good thing your sister did not see you. Vince Ambrosetti: I know. I would have been in trouble. You're right. You're absolutely right, but it was interesting. There was one priest who-- a poor guy, couldn't sing at all and his name was Father Richard and he would sing, "The Lord be with you," not is the best way . Bake in that time we have what we call, High Mass and Low Mass. So the High Mass was also sung, right Father Wayne? And he'd be up there, "The Lord be with you." So I went up to him and I said, "Father Rich." "Yes, Vincent?" "Would you consider not singing it the next Mass?" I did, and he said, I scarred him for life. He told the people at the next Mass. He said, "Vincent doesn't want me to sing in Mass," and they all applauded. Yeah. Oh, but I felt so badly afterwards because you know my mantra now. If you have a good voice, you use it to glorify God. If you have a bad voice, make them listen to it, right? But, anyway, so that's how things started and then in 1977, I had been in the seminary for a couple of years and I was returning from Rome for my studies there and I got the bishop to approve my departure in supporting this, starting this organization and, it was really amazing. I mean, we started out with the music of five different composers and we now publish a 120 plus people and we have over 2,000 titles and including Gift of Finest Wheat and Seeds Scattered and Sown and so many that you probably know but don't know where they live in, and just wonderful people that really give their hearts to serving the church and all, in a meaningful way, and give us music that touches us deeply. One of my favorites for example is Beth Ann Martinez in Los Angeles, wrote a beautiful Eucharistic hymn. We're going to use on Wednesday called Bread for the Broken, and it just speaks of the healing nature of Eucharist, of Eucharist as a gift, the presence of God that calls us to know the healing love of God. So, and there are so many different ways that we express all that. Julia Johnson: When you started writing music? Vince Ambrosetti: I started writing music when I was nine years old and actually, we have in publication, one of the songs I wrote when I was nine but we use it for the children. It's called 'Come forth my People' and the kids love it because I make them clap and dance while they're doing it. I mean, you know kids love these gestures but and so as the adult sometimes, right? So, but I got more serious about it when I was in college and then I went off to study with the French Priest by the name of Father Lucien Deiss and a Father Joseph Gelineau who were famous composers in the 1960's particularly during the Second Vatican Council. Then I went to study with Father Deiss at Westminster College at Princeton University at East of United States. He pulled me aside one day and he said, "Vincent, are you studying music?" I was in college at that point then I said, "Well Father, no, I love it too much and I don't want to ruin that." He looked at me and he said, "If you are to speak it well, you must learn the language." And then he said to me, "And if you're going to break the rules, you should know the rules first." Isn't that interesting? So I went back and I added, at that time, English Lit and Public Speaking in Public Speaking, that was my major and I've done that since I was in the seventh grade so I really enjoyed all of that. But I went back and added a second major and it was Music Composition and it was one of the best things that ever happened because again, he was right. You should know the rules in order to break them. I mean, it's been very, very helpful, not just with my music but also as a publisher of other people's music, I need to understand all that. Then I went on to enter the seminary and I studied Theology. First Philosophy then Theology, but I ultimately left and finished up my Graduate Studies in Theology at the University of Notre Dame. That wonderful holy place in Southern Indiana, that's right. Right, and for those of us who went to Notre Dame, I tease about this. We say that Southern Indiana is the Holy Land. So, but it was a great experience and I spent so many hours just writing hymns, writing songs, in the beautiful Basilican air on the campus, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. The other thing is, I've had the privilege of living in more than 700 records because at one point in my life, I went to work for a company. I was recruited by a company that was acquired by Merrill Lynch and I-- at the young age of 24, became the National Director of Training and Development for Merrill Lynch and its diversified financial services group. So my boss was a guy named Donald Reagan who while I was there, went to become the secretary of Finance and the Chief of Staff for Ronald Reagan. Do you remember that name? Yeah and so that-- it was a pretty heavy time and frankly, I acquired a lot of things. I bought a bunch of real estate and bought a couple of commercial buildings and I had like 27 residential properties and I was investing very smartly, and I was making more money than a 24-year old should ever make in life, right? And I had my Mercedes and I had my 8,000 square foot home and my expensive suits, and on March 23rd of 1987, I walked into the President's office at Merrill Lynch, on the National presence and I said, "You know, it's been great to be here but I'm turning in my resignation," and he said, "What are you going to do?" Now he was a Mormon with 13 kids, and he said, "What are you going to do?" I said, "Well, well Sam - I'm going to go and do ministry in the Catholic Church." He said, "However will you pay your bills?" I said, "I trust in God. That's what's going to happen." So, I sold everything off for over the next few years, sold off all over the State, sold off everything, got rid of everything I had and then donated it all to the non-profit that I had set up, that is our organization today, and I had no salary. I had no health insurance. I had no income of any kind. I hired an assistant. I had a small staff including a nun that worked in our office, now for the missions, and we went off with what I thought was going to be six or twelve months and I started this in 1992 with the first mission in Marietta, Georgia, just outside of Orlando. This is when we went full board. I mean, I've been giving talks and workshops after this point but this was getting in, in an extended cargo van with a rack of my clothes in the back, shared with my assistant, with all the publishing and materials in the middle and the equipment, the sound equipment on the side doors and we started in that first mission which I thought would last for six or twelve months, and from 1992 to 1999, for seven years, I lived in a different rectory every week, all across the country. I have to tell you, it was joyful. It was wonderful. It was great. I didn't have to think about burst pipes in the winter. I didn't have to think about a lawn that had to be mowed. I didn't have to think about running anything or doing anything. My group and Marilyn that was doing administration was self-contained and it was just all -- it was all great. I didn't think about where my next meal was coming from because just like Father Wayne, He's feeding me every day here, right Father? I mean, the local church would just-- it would take care of us. It would pay for us and I'd live in the rectory with my assistant, Lani, was his name at that time,and it was wonderful. I got to meet incredible priests. I got to meet wonderful people. I got to experience a mission every single week except Christmas and Easter for seven years and my parents thought I was nuts. You know, I mean I walked away from all that security, from all the business, from all of it and again, God has blessed all of that. So I can tell you this, it’s my final comment I’ll just say to you and all of it is I am never happier than when I am sharing an experience either in a convocation with priests, in prayer and in growing together in the ministry or in one of these parish missions as we make this journey because I have to take every single mission has its own personality. Every single mission is its own unique experience. Every single mission doesn’t just touch the folks in the pews, it speaks to my heart as well. So I come away with a greater sensitivity to God’s presence and love and I come away with a deeper appreciation for the self-emptying love of our God and I come away really believing more passionately and deeply than I did five days earlier. So for me it’s just a great privilege to be able to do this and at the end of it when we walk away, there’s a sadness that I have because I’m leaving now my family of this past week, you know, and I can tell you sincerely that it’s hard and that’s the poverty of what we do is that we leave here and next week we start all over in another parish in Scranton, Pennsylvania, right? And that’s just the way it is, you know, but what a wonderful privilege to do this work. I look back on my life and I will just tell you that I very, very humbly, truly, passionately believe that what I’m doing today is exactly what God created me to do and I’m not proud of that. I am -I’m just absolutely humbled by that to think that I would be so privileged that God would bring me into this world and I know that when I close my eyes for the last time, when I breathe my breath for the last time, we hope not soon but whenever that happens that I will be doing exactly what God need me to do. Isn’t that something? Julia Johnson: It’s wonderful. Vince Ambrosetti: I can only wish that for others as well, you know what I mean? You must know that. It’s an amazing feeling. It’s incredible. Julia Johnson: It’s amazing, yeah. And are you doing all these missions only in the United States or also you go abroad? Vince Ambrosetti: We’ve done missions in Italy, Ireland, Israel and the Philippines. And in the Philippines, Cardinal Sin, who had since past away, I love that name, he invited us over to do missions around Manila and Tagaytay and Cebu and it was amazing and the last event was a big mission that was televised in an arena that held tens of thousands of people and it was packed. And that’s when, you know that thing we do stretch out your hand? The Filipinos made that up. I wrote the song but the first time I used it was there and they made up the gestures, you know, so I’ve since carried it all over the places. Isn’t that amazing? So yeah we travel to other places as well. And we have initiative right now to carry the missions to military bases around the world as well but we will go wherever God calls us. In fact the Philippines just contacted us recently. They want us to come back and do a tour there and it’s wonderful because they’re just so responsive and it’s an amazing country too. But I will tell you this too, one comment I want to make, what I have discovered, I don’t care if it’s an 8,000 family parish, a 200 family parish, a group of priest in Ohio or wherever, your people are hungry for an intimate relationship with God, amen? Everywhere, no matter where we go. People are hungry for that and I think that they sense that these experiences will help them make that journey and I believe it so. One of the things I will tell you is my experience with Mother Teresa, I never hesitate to use her name because, not for me, but I know-- a lay came up to me last night and you know what she told me? She said I invited my friend to come and she hasn’t been to church in a while and I told her that you’re the guy that sang at Mother Teresa’s funeral and she said, okay, I’ll be there. So it’s not me and you know, when you have this little powerful four-foot something saint of God who everybody in the world knows, even still if you ask young people, do you know who Mother Teresa is... Julia Johnson: They know who she is... Vince Ambrosetti: They still know. Everybody knows who she is and I say she would be elated for us to use her name to bring people in to a deeper experience of God. Every mission has its own character and its own unique unfolding. I call it the blossoming of the bud in the full bloom. Julia Johnson: Can you please share us some memories about Mother Teresa and something special and how you met her. Vince Ambrosetti: Well, I’ll tell you a really funny story of Mother Teresa. It is a great one actually. So she-- I was always amazed that as she walk through a crowd, I never understood what the parting of the Red Sea must have looked like until I saw people spreading off to the side as this little tiny woman walks through the crowd. You know, and certainly moves to the side and she makes her way to the ticket counter and she has the procurator with her. That would be the nun in charge of the money for the missionary and she orders a ticket passage from the United States back to Calcutta and the lady said, okay, we can get tickets for you, two seats, is that right, Mother? Yes, okay. She says how much will that be? And the lady looked at her and handed her the tickets and said your money is no good here, Mother. She said, you’re never allowed to pay for a ticket on the stairwell. So listen so then they upgraded her to first class. Now, this is an international flight and on international flights, as you know, first class really is something. I mean, you know, fillet and caviar and you know, it’s incredible. So there’s Mother Teresa sitting in her first class seat. She very humbly went and sat down and she has her nun next to her and they come up to her and say, fillet, Mother? No, thank you. No, thank you. Okay. Caviar, Mother? No, thank you. No, thank you. So she finally she said, Miss, may I ask you a question? She said, how much more does it cost for someone to sit up here than back there? Then she said, well, Mother, I don’t know but I can ask the pilot and he can radio in and we can find out, you know. So she said, okay. I would like to know that, you know. So they radio in and they get the information and she comes back. Now, they’ve taken off already, right? She is still sitting there and the flight attendant comes back and says, well, the pilot just informed me that it was another $8,643.27 for you to sit here and the same amount for sister to sit with you. That’s what it would have been to pay for that ticket for you to be here. Well she got up, she stood up and she said, thank you for that information. She said and the nun on the side was calculating what that was and she said, please let your president of your airline know that we’re moving to the back and he owes my poor 17,000 whatever the number was [inaudible] and she just looked at her. So the nuns got up, they moved back to the coach and the president of the airline sent her the check. Now, remember it was a free ticket to begin with, right? But Mother Teresa said, you owe me $17,000 somewhat and the president of the airline felt he had no choice but to send her the money, right? So that’s the kind of power that true self-emptying love has in this world. I believe that. For whatever it’s worth and she was no shrinking violet. Oh I could tell you stories. I mean, she showed up at the Vatican unannounced and [inaudible] for money and you know, the Carmel in charge of the bank would have to give it to her even though I will say no. I mean, it was just incredible. So this lady had amazing power and influence and I think that’s because it was all about Jesus. It was all about Christ. It was never about her. It was always self-empty. Everything that she did was directed to self-emptying love. She’s an amazing person. She really is just and you know, and even in her dying, her legacy continues even in the dark night of her soul, right? Even in all that experience which does nothing but prove that she was a saint, she was clearly one who drew close to the crucifix and understood what that meant and made it evident in her life. So she’s had a great influence on me and if you continue to come to the mission I tell a couple of stories in the mission that are frankly, they’re going to blow you away. I mean, it’s just Mother Teresa stuff that is absolutely amazing. Julia Johnson: You played on Mather Teresa funeral. Tell please more about that experience. Vince Ambrosetti: Yeah. Well, it was a song that they have requested that I’ve written that Mother Teresa had heard called Sanctuary and it’s a beautiful song about the God who ever is our refuge, our sanctuary. It comes from Psalm 91, right? You all know that, right? And there’s a story for that too and that comes this week in one of the mission. So I’ll share more of the detail with you but it’s-- well, in fact I wrote a particular verse for Mother Teresa’s funeral that I’ve only used at her funeral but otherwise the song isn’t pretty broad publication around the country in a broad use. It’s a nice piece. Julia Johnson: How came the idea to create initiative to carry the missions to military bases? Vince Ambrosetti: Well, okay, this goes back to this. So I didn’t-- nor will I talk about this in the mission so you can jot this down when you have a chance but what happened was this, the second war in Iraq broke out and I got a hold of a friend of mine who was a two star general chaplain in the Pentagon and Father Bill [Vince here I again need your help] General [and here] and I said to him. Bill, I like to go to Iraq to do missions for the troops. Can we work that out? And it just started, you know, the conflict and he said, well, Vince you got to get a security clearance. Let me put you in charge with the chief of chaplains. So I got in touch with the chief of chaplains and we talked about this and he started on the security clearance. He called me back a couple of days later, maybe just a day or so later and he said, I got good news, bad news and good news. I said that sounds like a joke. He said, it’s not. He said the good news is we got your security clearance. The bad news is we can’t let you go because I don’t know if you’ve seen the news today but they just took the statue of Sadam Hussein down in the public square and things are getting very volatile there and we can’t send you over right now. He said but the good news is we’ve had a request for you to go to one of our military bases and I said, well, how did that happen? He said, well it seems that 11 years ago you gave a parish mission in a parish called St. Jerome in Waco, Texas and that there was a little 9- year-old boy that came every night and insisted that his mommy who was a Baptist come with him and they sat in the front pew every night. He is now a 20-year-old Lance corporal and he’s been bugging his chaplain to bring you in. So apparently the chaplain has said if you will agree, Lance corporal Austin Stukins, that was his name, will be in charge of the mission. I said, okay. I’m going. Where are you sending me? He said, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii and I said-- I laughed and I said, wait, wait, wait I asked you to send me to Iraq and you’re sending me to Hawaii and he laughed and said, welcome to the US Military, Vince. So since that time we’ve given missions in a lot of military bases because I believe very, very deeply in the freedom that we have to be able to message, pray and gather in public and do what we do as Catholics and we are able to call ourselves Christians because we exercise that faith publicly without the fears of retribution in this country and I think that’s absolutely wonderful and of course we all have to admit that in spite of the fact that I don’t know if I could personally ever kill someone that I am very grateful for those that had defended our freedom to allow us to do this. Does that make sense, Father Wayne? I will just say to you again that I am deeply grateful for all that our military forces represent in defending our freedom. And because of that, by the way, when these guys are getting ready to go over into places of high risk, I want them to be fully immersed in their faith when they go. I want them to know Christ more intimately when they go and I want them to find it to be the most necessary piece of equipment on their person. I would like to be the Word of God in their pocket when they go. That’s what we want. So because of that, we believe that these military missions are certainly important and at present we’ve done a number again but I want to do a lot more as well. So that’s a wonderful initiative, huh? Father Wayne Pittard: With our military just so important and growing up on military bases, you know, I guess I know the depth of faith that are there and also how they rely on that, you know, when you have dads flying in their war zones, you know. My dad was flying into Vietnam on a regular basis, you know, so there’s always that apprehension, you know, what’s going to happen and came back and they talk about bullet holes in the tail. Where they’re taking off or landing and snipers would try to maybe hit a fuel line or hit something, you know, just a lucky chance but-- so just that sense of having that we can rely on that you can take any place with you. Vince Ambrosetti: My dad was in World War II, there are four boys, two girls in my family and frankly, all of my brothers were in service except for me because I went into the seminary at that time but I will tell you that dad was stationed in Foggia, Italy and he had gone to John’s Hopkins and he was the head engineer on a team of guys that had to take undetonated missiles out of airplanes. Can you imagine that? And one of dad’s teams, 11 guys were killed in one of those explosions and my father had the privilege of travelling very short distance to go to the San Giovanni Rotondo to visit with Padre Pio in many occasions and it changed him forever, forever, forever. He had that gift of faith when he was out in the middle of all this conflict and all those terrible things that go on in war and when he died in ’93 the cover of his funeral program was a picture of dad in his service uniform for the army air corps it was called that at that time and he was in uniform serving mass for Padre Pio and Padre Pio was standing just to be beside him is something. So-- and because of that in part, I just feel a particular passion for that work with those who do this work as well and you can identify with that as well.
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Vince Ambrosetti: I never hesitate to use Mother Teresa name because it is not for me