Internationally known Catholic singer and songwriter Nancy Krebs expresses her deep faith in God through the arts, and she recently encouraged a group of teens in Cato to do the same.
On Oct. 15 Krebs visited Our Lady of the Snow Parish in northern Cayuga County, where she led a youth retreat during the day and performed a free concert that evening. Krebs performed at the parish last October and returned again this year at the request of Doug McCurdy and the Knights of Columbus 12223 Father John Guy Council.
McCurdy said he stumbled across one of Krebs’ CDs while he was browsing in the gift shop at St. Jude’s Shrine in Baltimore, Md., about two years ago. He listened to the CD when he got home, liked what he heard and called Krebs to see if she’d be willing to perform at his parish. Krebs agreed, so McCurdy approached his fellow Knights with the idea of sponsoring a concert for the parish.
The Knights agreed to sponsor the concert, and Krebs performed before a group of parishioners last October. Those who attended had such a great experience that the Knights invited her to perform at the parish again this year, McCurdy said. They also asked Krebs to lead the youth retreat for the parish’s teens.
Krebs said she enjoys working with teens because she remembers well her own teen years and the way it felt to not know exactly what she wanted to do when she grew up. Krebs began singing when she was 3 years old, started writing songs as a teenager and eventually became a professional singer, musician and actress. It wasn’t until later, however, that she discovered her true calling.
“In 1994 I received an invitation to come to my home parish and sing meditative-style music. I was so flattered. God got (my attention) through flattery,” she joked.
Krebs began singing quiet, meditative songs each week at Mass but eventually ran out of material. She turned to God for inspiration one Saturday afternoon when she was anxiously looking for something to sing the next day.
“I prayed, ‘Please, dear Lord, tell me what you want me to write,’ and bang, out comes this song,” Krebs said. “More and more I started to rely on the inspiration God gave me.”
People responded enthusiastically to Krebs’ songs, and she recorded her first album, “The Journey,” in 1998. She has now recorded five albums and performed around the world. Her goal whenever she performs in concert is to draw the listeners closer to the presence of God, she said.
Krebs’ Oct. 15 concert was held at St. Patrick’s Church in Cato, which is one of the three churches that make up the newly formed Our Lady of the Snow Parish. Approximately 40 people attended the concert, McCurdy said. Although McCurdy had hoped the concert would draw a larger crowd, Krebs learned long ago not to judge a performance by the number of people in the audience.
“If my focus is on who I’m actually singing for, then it doesn’t matter who is in the crowd,” she explained.
About 10 teens attended the youth retreat, which was very successful, McCurdy said.
“The essence of the retreat is for the young people to experience their spirituality and how to express that spirituality. It’s an exploration of one’s spirituality, through the arts, as it relates to the world they’re living in,” McCurdy said. “Those 10 had an experience of a lifetime that they won’t forget.”
“Whom do you seek?” was the theme of the retreat, and early on Krebs asked the teens to find God by looking inside themselves. In small groups, the teens then drew pictures that expressed spiritual and theological concepts.
During the remainder of the retreat, teens talked about where they found God in the world around them, wrote songs about their findings to the tune of “Erie Canal” and acted out improvised scenarios about their roles as disciples in the kingdom of God, Krebs said.
Krebs concluded the retreat by performing a brand-new song, “The Road to Emmaus,” which she wrote specifically for the retreat. At the end of the retreat, each participant was given a CD containing “The Road to Emmaus” and other songs from the retreat. The teens also completed an evaluation of the retreat, which sent a resounding message to organizers about what they want, McCurdy said.
“The kids want more (activities). If things are offered, they’ll participate. They said flat out, ‘give us something to come to, and we will come,'” McCurdy said.
Earlier this month several women from the parish began forming a youth group, which the parish did not previously have, he added.
“I hope we can do something of this sort again for teens in this area. There seems to be a huge hunger for more opportunities to share their inner thoughts and feelings with regard to their faith life,” Krebs said.
Krebs, for her part, said she enjoyed every minute of the retreat.
“The young people who attended the retreat simply blew me away with their participation, their willingness to listen, and their ability to discuss and share their thoughts on their spiritual lives,” Krebs said. “They were so open to all the activities I had planned for the day, and I think they really got a lot out of the experience.”