Deirdre Serio, Special to The Catholic Virginian
St. Thomas More Parish, Lynchburg, marked its 40th season of Lent with a mission that included singing, worship, and prayer. They were led by The VIGIL Project, a group of Catholic musicians from Louisiana that produce multimedia resources to help people encounter God and grow in prayer.
The VIGIL Project collaboration began in February 2016 when a group of Catholic musicians and filmmakers created an album for Lent and Easter.
“We were surprised when it was viewed by over 100 countries,” said Andrea Thomas, a vocalist and songwriter with the group.
After that effort, they had many requests to create an album of music for the Advent and Christmas seasons, so they got the group together for another album. From there, their work grew into one-night mission trips which have grown into multimedia, multi-night encounters at Catholic churches around the country.
“We feel that that’s what God’s asked of us,” said Greg Beaudreax, VIGIL guitarist, songwriter and vocalist. “All together, we can create this beautiful gift for the Church.”
“It’s so important to go out to the grassroots of the Church and pray with them,” Thomas said.
They named their non-profit group The VIGIL Project because “we hold vigil during these seasons,” Thomas said. “We keep watching and praying for the Second Coming.”
And that project has become a full-time ministry for Thomas and Beaudreax. Their spring 2018 tour, which they titled “Seeking and Saving,” is based on a passage from Luke’s Gospel about how Jesus came to “seek and save the lost” (Lk 19:10).
At St. Thomas More, the three-night program included speakers, prayer and music. The words to their songs were projected on a wall behind the band, allowing the enthusiastic congregation to sing along.
Craig Braun, St. Thomas More’s communications coordinator, learned about The VIGIL Project from a Pentecost Vigil sponsored by the Wild Goose Series, and started talking to The VIGIL Project last September.
The first night at St. Thomas More, Thomas asked participants, “What are you seeking?” and tied it to her experience as a college student volunteering at Lourdes.
“She spoke right from her heart,” said Rick Terrell. “What I got from it was that God just really wants us to be happy.”
Rick’s wife, Peggy, added, “You may not think God hears our prayers, but he does.”
“And the answer may not always be in the time frame that you want,” said Deborah Holloway, “but it will be answered in God’s time.”
The second night, Beaudreax challenged the audience to look at the world anew. He posted a quote by G.K. Chesterton: “Our perennial spiritual and psychological task is to look at things familiar until they become unfamiliar again.”
“Sometimes, in our devotion, we go on autopilot,” Beadreaux said.
He challenged St. Thomas More parishioners to look at the world around them with new eyes.
“It makes you think about the normal, your comfort zone,” said Deborah Holloway. “And you need to go beyond that.”
On that second night, there was time for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. During the exposition, Jo-Ann LaClair was incredibly moved.
“It was probably one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had,” she said.
On the final night, band members joined parishioners for praise, singing and prayer.
During his homily the following Sunday, Msgr. Michael McCarron, pastor of St. Thomas More, challenged parishioners with the G. K Chesterton quote, encouraging them to go out and look at the world with new eyes, to let the familiar become unfamiliar.