Internationally known Catholic recording artist brings his music to the archdiocese
by Marc and Julie Anderson
Special to The Leaven
TOPEKA — Ever run across a song you just can’t get out of your head?
It’s happened to renowned youth minister, songwriter and storyteller Steve Angrisano.
It just turned out to be one he hadn’t written yet.
Angrisano, who has performed at six World Youth Days and several National Catholic Youth Conferences, including the one held in 2009 in Kansas City, Mo., says almost every one of his recorded songs has a unique story.
It was his best-known — “My Soul is Thirsting for You” — that ran through his head for more than a year before he finally put its lyrics to paper.
It was a year in which his constant strumming of the melody in his head, in fact, began to get on his wife’s nerves.
Angrisano shared the history of that particular song, along with others, at a concert that drew several hundred to Most Pure Heart of Mary Church in Topeka on Feb. 23. Earlier in the day, Angrisano had performed at Hayden High School in Topeka as part of a tour through the archdiocese.
That tour included stops at St. James Academy in Lenexa, Immaculata High School in Leavenworth, St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City, Kan., Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park, the Men Under Construction conference held Feb. 26 at Church of the Ascension in Overland Park, and the junior high youth rally held Feb. 27 at Prairie Star Ranch in Williamsburg.
“I wrote the music first, and I thought it was pretty,” Angrisano said of “My Soul is Thirsting for You.” In fact, he played it over and over throughout the next year.
One night, he continued, as his kids were sleeping and his wife Jenni was reading, she asked him to please finish the song, because the constant strumming of the same melody over and over again was starting to get on her nerves.
When he explained his writer’s block was getting in the way, in a moment of inspiration, she suggested he open a Bible and figure out something.
For the next few minutes, Angrisano flipped through the Bible’s pages, searching for its red-letter words — that is, words Jesus actually said, such as those of the Sermon on the Mount. God has a sense of humor, Angrisano said, because within a few minutes, he found himself reading Psalm 63.
In less than eight minutes, he finished his most widely published and performed song. Of course, Angrisano joked, all copyrights belong to King David, who lived thousands of years ago.
Among the many songs that Angrisano performed, at least one was a mainstream hit. “Lean on Me,” said Angrisano, is a holy song. As anyone knows who has ever listened to the classic hit first recorded and released by Bill Withers in 1972, the song talks about friendship and tough times, a theme that Angrisano can easily relate to. Jenni underwent several surgeries this past year.
“Sometimes in the most difficult of times, God is most present,” he said.
Sponsored by the archdiocese, the concert series was the idea of Rick Cheek, associate consultant for the office of evangelization and Catholic formation of youth and a personal friend of Angrisano.
Cheek said he was gratified by the turnout and enjoyed watching the audience’s reactions to the songs and stories.
“It’s the Holy Spirit. It was incredible,” Cheek said. “People just want to praise the Lord.”
After the concert, Angrisano was available for photos and the signing of CDs. In between autographs, he discussed the essence of his ministry as a performer.
“At the heart of it,” he said, “my ministry is a call for all of us as faithful Catholics to be a reflection of God’s light and love in a world that so desperately needs it.”