Noted performer returns to Rochester - Catholic Courier

Noted performer returns to Rochester

ROCHESTER — He inspired teenagers one day and young adults the next at Sacred Heart Cathedral. He’s performed all over the world, in massive crowds that have included no less than Pope John Paul II. Whatever the venue, Steve Angrisano said his emphasis is a constant: to draw people closer to Christ.

“The message doesn’t change,” he told the Catholic Courier.

Angrisano, 41, rolled his trademark music, humor and storytelling into a pleasing package for cathedral audiences. On May 18 he served as keynoter for the third-annual diocesan “Senior Scene,” a reflection day for high-school seniors. One day later he highlighted a day for young adults that included dinner, another performance and Mass. His visit to the cathedral — the latest of several appearances in this diocese — was sponsored by the diocesan young-adult ministry and vocations-awareness offices.

During the Saturday-evening gathering, Angrisano reflected on sainthood and said he’ll doubtfully ever have a church named after him “which is too bad, because I’d make a handsome statue.” Yet he also noted that “a saint is not a person on a statue, but a person in heaven. So when you die, you’re either a saint … or you’d better stock up on sunscreen because you’re going to need it (in hell).”

He explained that we’re all called to saintliness and don’t have to perform extraordinary acts to bring this about. He referred to Pope John Paul II’s 2001 apostolic letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte, in which the late pontiff commented that he was glad to have beatified and canonized a large number of Christians including “many lay people who attained holiness in the most ordinary circumstances of life.”

Angrisano shared one ordinary circumstance — when he rebuked three people on a plane after hearing them mutter some anti-Catholic views. He had just performed at a large pro-life rally and found it more intimidating to face those people than the big crowd.

“It’s easy to stand in front of 500,000 people who believe what you believe,” he said. Nonetheless, he said, a major component of serving Christ is “standing up for what’s right when nobody else will.”

Along with his words of wisdom, Angrisano provided music for the Saturday liturgy that was celebrated by Bishop Matthew H. Clark and featured young adults in such roles as lectors and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion. He sang several of his original songs such as “Go Make a Difference” and “How Could You Say No.”

Angrisano, a resident of Highlands Ranch, Colo., is an internationally acclaimed recording artist who’s been featured at two World Youth Days as well as four National Catholic Youth Conferences. In 1999 he also performed before Pope John Paul II in St. Louis, Mo., and amused the cathedral audience by recalling how he had learned greetings in Polish to impress the pope — but when he came face-to-face with the pontiff, he drew a blank and couldn’t get the words out.

Angrisano has made numerous friends from this diocese, getting to know many from NCYC conventions where Rochester traditionally has one of the largest turnouts. He has appeared at a number of local parish and diocesan events, including a parish retreat held at Sacred Heart Cathedral in March 2006.

He told the Courier that he does alter his presentations slightly depending on audience demographics. eighth-graders, it’s not that they don’t understand the depth of their faith — it’s just the time they can stay there is shorter,” he said, laughing. “Eighth-graders are more into fun and games, and adults might be talking about taking care of kids and having too much work. They can be challenged to go deeper.”

Angrisano also observed that although youths tend to worry about being judged by their friends for expressing their faith, “sometimes as adults we don’t get better.” For instance, he said if somebody at the office starts criticizing anti-abortionists, “we might just walk down the hall and get a cup of coffee.”

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