Singing out

Performers bring message of peace and justice to Southern Tier
By deacon tom picciano / SUN contributing writer

Binghamton — Charlie King’s life was changed when he heard a Catholic Peace Fellowship speaker during his sophomore year at college.

“The whole vision of a peaceful tomorrow that was part of Catholic tradition that had never been taught to me in Catholic schools, that came alive for me,” King said. “I’m still living in the legacy of that one visit.”

Now decades later, King shared that vision during a performance for students at the La Tazza Coffee Shop during the Easter break. The event, sponsored by St. James Parish Peace and Justice Ministry also featured Colleen Kattau. Young people sat in comfy chairs sipping from large cups as King and Kattau sang and talked.

“By the time they came for me, there was no one even left to try,” they sang the words attributed to Martin Niemoller, a World War I German naval officer who became a minister. Niemoller is credited with a poem encouraging people to stand up for everyone, because the last person left would have no one to speak for them. Niemoller was eventually arrested for his words and survived two concentration camps.

“He learned the hard way that you really can’t hide from justice,” King said, “You can’t really keep a low profile until it all blows over, because eventually it all ends up on your doorstep.”

Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus, and activist and one-time presidential candidate Eugene Debbs were among the many names brought up during the performance by King and Kattau.

“They had a very good message,“ said Christopher Fitzpatrick who was confirmed last year at St. James. “They were able to use it through not just words but also through song and examples.”

“Last year, we learned that we’re all equal and we should all stick up for what we believe in,” Fitzpatrick said, “They reinforced that through Nelson Mandela and the other examples they used.”

Singer Colleen Kattau, a teacher by profession, believes that young people are receptive to their message because they sing from the heart.

“We try to engage them and get them to think,” she said. “Ask them questions. To do some critical thinking, that’s the key.”

“We try to mix it up with humor and with a little sarcasm here and there. So I think that’s how we can get a message across. But really making it more of a dialogue is very important,” she said.

Maria Murphy is a sophomore at Seton Catholic Central High School and in the St. James confirmation program. Murphy said she is interested in civil rights, and she learned from the presentation.

“They covered a lot of ground. I was really satisfied,” Murphy said. “The church is supposed to talk about equality and loving one another, treating one another with respect. And they made a good comparison in a couple songs about God listening to the people, and just they way they were talking, it was a comparison of us to be more like Jesus, help one another.”

“Anybody, anyone doing either the most simple work or the most complex, it doesn’t matter,” Kattau said, “If they stand up, speak to those in power. Stand up for what they believe in and learn how to deal with other people who don’t share the same ideas that they do.”

“The main thing is their lives can make a difference,” King said. “I think that so much of what is shoved down our throats as a culture tells us that how we make a difference is by buying things. And it’s a heartless way of life.”

King hoped the students walked away with a sense that living a good and meaningful life can affect other people.

“Maybe you sing to a thousand people and [if] one person changes, it’s worth the investment in time and energy,” he said.

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