by Katie Peterson
Special to The Leaven
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — An evening of music infused with a message of hope and prayer is what awaits attendees of the “Light Has Come” Advent Tour with Catholic worship leader and songwriter Sarah Kroger.
The archdiocesan rural youth ministry outreach is offering two opportunities for young Catholics to experience the evening as Kroger, along with her husband Dominic Quaglia and their band, will perform from 6-8 p.m. on Dec. 17 at Sacred Heart Church in Sabetha, and from 6-8 p.m. on Dec. 18 at Eleanor’s White Barn in Scranton.
The tour will replace the usual summer and fall events the rural youth ministry usually sponsors for families.
“In December, it’s hard not to get overly busy and take time to really prepare for Christmas, so I’m excited that this is happening just before school gets out,” said Angie Bittner, rural youth ministry outreach coordinator. “It’ll be a really beautiful, intentional time to spend with your family or youth group and to just focus on Jesus.
“You just get to come as you are and enjoy a night of really prayerful — but also really joyful — music, and Sarah is so gifted. It’s such a joy just to listen to her, and I think that anybody that comes will leave with their hearts in a better place than it started and more ready for Christmas to come.”
‘Faith took on a person’
Kroger has been a Catholic since birth, having grown up in Melbourne, Florida, and attending the nearby St. Joseph Church where her parents, Betty Ann and Daniel Kroger, served as choir directors and music ministers.
“I grew up in a musical household and going to church every single weekend,” Kroger said. “We were up from sunup to sundown because [my parents] were directing choirs and doing ministry.”
But it wasn’t until her junior year in high school that it went from being a routine to something she wanted to do. That is when she attended the Franciscan University of Steubenville Youth Conference, which featured Christian artists Matt Maher and Audrey Assad.
“It was the first time that I ever really heard music that personified Jesus in a personal way and gave me relationship language around the person of Christ,” Kroger explained. “It changed everything for me because rather than just going to Mass and checking off a box and going through the motions, it became, ‘This is about a real person who wants an actual relationship with me and wants to be involved in my life and the decisions that I’m making.’”
“Faith took on a person,” she added simply.
“It became, ‘I want to go because I want to feed this relationship that’s been started,’ and it ignited this fire within me,” she continued. “Just like any other relationship, in the beginning, it was magical, and I wanted as much time with God as possible, in as many ways as possible.”
To satisfy that hunger, Kroger said she joined the youth group and began getting involved with the church choir.
“Up until that point, even though music was a part of my life, I was terrified to sing in front of people for many years, and it really was that conference that changed it for me,” she said. “There was a leader on that conference that said, ‘If you have a gift from God and you’re not using it, you’re denying the glory of God within you.’”
“It was this massive moment of realizing this isn’t just for me. This isn’t just my little thing that I like doing on the side,” Kroger continued. “This is something that God wants me to give to the world in my own little way. I didn’t know what that looked like at the time, but now I can see the fruit of being able to say ‘yes’ in that moment, which is pretty insane.”
A night of hope
The music also fed that growing personal relationship with God, she said.
“It became the way I communicated with God, once I realized there was language around worship music for that,” she said.
And she’s used that language to become a music missionary, taking that message to the faithful across the world for the last 10 years.
Kroger has served as a worship leader at conferences and events and regularly put on performances such as the Advent Tour for many years.
“Advent is my favorite time of year, and my favorite season in the church,” Kroger said. “Just the whole idea of the incarnation of Jesus is so hope-filled and something I need to hear and be reminded of every single year, so I’m grateful that the church has these consistent calendars to remind us of these very important truths that can be so easy to forget in a dark world.”
Plus, she said, Christmas serves as a “common denominator” among people, whether they’re a believer or not.
“People can invite their friends, their neighbors to a night like this because it’s nonthreatening,” Kroger said. “The whole night is infused with hope.”
Noting the theme of “Light Has Come,” she continued, “it’s this idea that on the darkest night, light broke through, and we still celebrate that light today. It’s this idea that it wasn’t just that Jesus was born into the world, the incarnation of God, the Word made flesh, but it was literally when light entered the world in a sense and is permanently here with us to stay.”
“It’s this idea that even if we feel like we’re living in the darkest times, there is this hope that light is always with us, within us, around us, leading us, guiding us,” Kroger added. “I hope people are reminded of that and feel encouraged after the evening.”
The power of music
And it’s the power of music that brings it together, too, Kroger said.
“Music has this really interesting way of breaking through a human heart, a human mind, in a way that just words sometimes can’t. It’s something about this magical combination of this melody mixed in with the lyric, and it just melts defenses in a way that words sometimes fail to do,” she said.
“One of my favorite things about worship,” Kroger said, “is that in a church, people can come with all kinds of political beliefs, perspectives on life, backgrounds, what have you, and yet, when we are lifting up a song of praise together, it is this one-in-Christ sound.
“To me, it echoes what it’s going to be like in heaven, united under the kingship of Christ. It’s not being exactly the same, it’s not being replicas. It’s being uniquely different, but being able to still be unified.”
“It’s really exciting when that happens and it’s good for the church,” she concluded. “The more that we can do things like this, come together and sing, sing the name of Jesus, the more we will figure out how to stand together even when we’re different.”
Kroger and her husband are based in Nashville and are parishioners of St. Joseph Church in Madison, Tennessee.
Both evenings of the Advent Tour are open to all. Freewill donations will be accepted at the door. Refreshments will also be available.
The Dec. 17 event will also include follow-up activities. The evening is co-hosted by the Sacred Heart Knights of Columbus. The Dec. 18 event is being co-hosted by St. Patrick Church in Osage City and St. Patrick Church in Scranton.
For more information, send an email to Bittner at: email@example.com, or visit the website at: archkck.org/rural/events/sarah-kroger-advent- tour.
Kroger will also lead a night of worship at 7 p.m. on Dec. 16 at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Leawood. For the full tour schedule, visit the website at: sarahkroger.com/tour.