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Priest singer-songwriter sizzles in Rock Fest’s third year

By Deacon Kyle Eller
The Northern Cross

“It’s definitely autobiographic,” Father Kevin McGoldrick, the headliner at this year’s Built Upon a Rock Fest Sept. 14, said about his opening song, “Square Peg,” which talks about being the proverbial square peg in a round hole.

Built Upon a Rock concert
After an evening of overcast skies and a rainbow over Lake Superior, the sun burst out during Father Kevin McGoldrick’s performance Sept. 14 at the 2019 Built Upon a Rock Fest. (Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross)

Among other things, the priest of the Nashville Diocese noted, there aren’t many singer-songwriter priests running around.

It wasn’t the only song with hints of his life in it. Having grown in up Philadelphia and moved to Tennessee, where he serves as chaplain at Aquinas College, he had another song about an unexpected cold spell in his new location. Another crowd favorite was about his love of coffee. He closed with a song about his parents, after his mother died two years ago.

Father McGoldrick’s eclectic set also had a mix of musical references and cover songs.

For instance, in a quirky song about a ladybug, which provided a clever way of talking about the complementarity of women and men, there is a musical callback to the 1981 hit “Just the Two of Us,” by Grover Washington Jr. and Bill Withers.

Later on he did a cover of the Peter Gabriel hit “In Your Eyes,” which he used as an example of how one of the first steps in evangelization is to “bless what’s already good in the culture.”

He did other covers too. He performed a cover of the early Robert Johnson blues song “Crossroads.” In response to some excited kids near the stage with whom he had been bantering, Father McGoldrick played a bluesy rendition of the “Sesame Street” theme song – rather than the requested Metallica, which he said he didn’t know.

Toward the end of the evening, Father McGoldrick returned to the theme of evangelization introducing his version of “Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue.” He spoke at some length of the “evangelical genius” of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whom he said brought in 10 million converts among the Aztec, at an astonishing rate of about 3,000 a day for 10 years straight.

He described how the miraculous tilma give by Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego had had such a profound success in a part of the world where evangelization had previously made scant progress by speaking in the pictographic language of the Aztecs and giving them the Gospel as “good news.”

The evening’s opening act was Dana Catherine, a singer-songwriter, speaker, and former youth minister from Raleigh, North Carolina with an often upbeat pop style.

She began her set with a new single just coming out called “Surrender Song.”

“If we surrender more to God, our lives will be a lot better,” she said. “A whole lot better.”

dancing fans
Two dancing fans at Built Upon a Rock Fest get ready for a twirl. The annual event took place Sept. 14 on the grounds of the Holy Rosary Campus of Stella Maris Academy. (Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross)

She said surrender was a theme in a lot of her music and quoted St. Therese of Lisieux with the notion that you “can’t be half a saint.”

“Let’s be all in with God,” she said.

Catherine took a few moments describing her own journey, too, how she had planned to be a doctor before discerning another call. She related these kinds of experiences to another song, a version of “Lead, Kindly Light,” by Blessed John Henry Newman.

The event, held as in past years on the grounds of the Holy Rosary Campus of Stella Maris Academy and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, drew people from around the diocese and from as far away as North Dakota.

It also gave a broad taste of Minnesota’s September weather, beginning with overcast skies and a couple of raindrops, then following with a rainbow over Lake Superior between sets, a golden sun appearing midway through Father McGoldrick’s performance, and a distinct autumn chill in the air by the time the sun began setting.

While the concert was going on, free food was being handed out by a host of volunteers, confessions were being heard both in a portable confessional on-site and across the street in the church, where Eucharistic Adoration took place throughout. The event closed with Benediction.

There was a cheer when emcee Father Ryan Moravitz asked if everyone wanted to do it again next year, and it sounds like that’s the plan. St. Alice Church in Pequot Lakes, one of the 26 sponsoring parishes, won a VIP party for next year.