Community Voices: From Outsider to Leader

December 28, 2015
Chicago, Illinois
Community Voices

In this latest installment of our Community Voices series, Jorge O. shares a little about  how he got involved in the Holy Cross community, and went from a young boy impressed by the music he heard in church to an active young adult leader ready to serve the community:

Big—really big. Those were my first words to describe Holy Cross when I walked into it as a young boy. Holy Cross was not the first church I had been to, it was my second. I remember the first church I stepped foot in was one that was far away. I was instructed to be quiet and try to listen to what the pastor was saying, but I always took off and ran around the church. Holy Cross was different. 

After I reacted to the size of it, I could only watch in amazement as some kids just a bit older than myself played all the songs for Mass. The pastor, while I did not really understand what he was saying at the time, had these gestures and passion in his voice that made me listen anyway and stay in my seat. I was impressed. You might think the next part of my story would be about how I continued to participate at Holy Cross and grow into a responsible leader in the community, but you would be wrong. 

My family and I stopped going to Holy Cross for a while just out of laziness, to be honest. Because I didn’t go back regularly, the sounds of the musicians became a distant memory. It wasn’t until my eighth grade graduation that my family and I went back to Holy Cross. During my graduation, the pastor from Holy Cross that I remembered from my childhood was there to bless all the graduates for their journeys in high school. I was really confused about why he was there. I thought all pastors did was preach every Sunday and maybe have meetings about improving the church. Seeing his community involvement prompted me to get involved in the parish community again, and I was shocked that stepping back in Holy Cross was like the first time I stepped in. Nothing had changed physically, and I heard the same ensemble of young musicians warming up for Sunday Mass. 

This group of musicians, Holy Cross’ Marimba Ensemble, play something called a marimba, which is a large, xylophone-like instrument. You might think I joined the group right away because I was eager too, but I avoided that chance because I wasn’t the most confident teenager then. I was barely passing in school and felt I was just going to end up a failure. I felt as if the pastor could read my mind, when one day I picked up my brother and sister from choir practice and he asked me if I was interested in joining the Marimba Ensemble. 

The first thing I learned was that the group did more than just play on Sunday mornings for Mass; they had various performances across Chicago, ranging from wedding receptions to backyard parties. Knowing this didn’t help me with my low self-esteem, but I went in regardless.

I was no good in the beginning. I struggled so much learning one song and didn’t feel so good about myself because, for me at the time, it was just something else I couldn’t do right. I really wanted to quit after learning the first song. But despite not learning at a fast pace compared to the other members, I felt I was still being invested in when I began to go to the performances with about six songs under my belt. The pastor convinced me to stay, telling me to never give up. I rarely heard that, to be honest, so when I heard it from him, I took it to heart. The following year I learned songs at a faster pace, and the following year I became a marimba teacher, and two years after that, I became the official Marimba Ensemble leader.

In my time as a Marimba Ensemble member, I got to learn a lot about Holy Cross and the community. I learned about the programs and the people who run them. I also met some mentors and friends who helped me grow into the mature young leader I am; my friends helped me with my self-esteem and confidence,  and my mentors helped by paving the way for my success and teaching me valuable life skills. But perhaps most importantly, I learned to trust myself as a leader, and then I learned about mentoring others as a leader.

I’ve looked up to so many people, and now I realize people look up to me too. I have come a long way since I returned to Holy Cross in the eighth grade. I am a leader in the Marimba, but I am also a leader in the parish community. I can take what I learn in one Holy Cross program and apply it other places. For example, I can take what I know about teamwork from the Marimba Ensemble and apply it to other committees and programs I am a part of. I think very differently since I stepped into Holy Cross and want different things too. I want to follow the pastor’s words, which are “Never give up.”  

You can help more young people like Jorge gain confidence and leadership skills by supporting one of Holy Cross’ programs today, like the Marimba Ensemble. Below are some specific ways you can help the ensemble’s young musicians:

A recurring gift of $33 a month enables the young musicians to maintain their instruments.

Support the Marimba Ensemble today!

A recurring gift of $16.67 a month will provide a new instrument for the young musicians.

Support the Marimba Ensemble today!

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