Boston musician inspires pilgrims with WYD performance

DUSSELDORF — Monica Ursino, a Catholic musician from Boston, has performed for thousands here in the United States but said those experiences could not prepare her for the “energizing” and “inspiring” opportunity to sing for a large group of young people at World Youth Day in Germany. An estimated 5,000 youth flooded Brugplatz, a square where the main stage in Dusseldorf was set up, to cheer for Ursino on Aug. 17.

"It definitely exceeded all my expectations," Ursino said about her large and enthusiastic audience. "It was a blessing."

"I actually cried backstage. I just couldn't believe it. I mean the audience and just being there and God brought me this far, it's amazing," she added. "With prayer anything is possible."

Jackie Poremski, 19, from Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Plymouth said she enjoyed Ursino’s performance. She had never heard Ursino’s music before but liked it and was able to get a CD.

The concert was “fun” and Ursino “brought the crowd in,” Poremski added.

Ursino said she was very nervous before the performance but was impressed with the young people’s love for God and the Catholic Church.

Ursino was raised Catholic, but was “rebellious” in college, she said.

"I was very unhappy with the choices I was making, and I realized that I had to make a decision," she said. "It was to either follow God or to follow the other way."

Her song “Lost at Sea,” on her first album “The Way,” is about that time in her life when she felt down and hopeless. The influences at her liberal college were “slowly destroying” her, and she began to question her faith, she said.

The song opens with, “I was lost at sea. No one there to rescue me. I thought I was dead. Ended up finding life instead. Out of darkness you came to rescue me.”

"I've always believed in God. I just had to start praying again, and really giving my life to God," Ursino said. "It wasn't easy. It isn't easy, but now it's very clear to me."

Upon graduation, Ursino moved to New York and worked for the Electric Lady Studio, owned by Jimi Hendrix, for three months, but the environment was not right.

"I knew that I needed to come home and start working on my dream and start writing for God," she said.

Then, over two years ago she saw an advertisement in The Pilot for Proud 2B Catholic, a Catholic music festival. She contacted its organizer, Peter Campbell, and he introduced her to a Catholic producer. She performed at two Proud 2B Catholic concerts locally and a third in Lancaster, Pa.. Last year she also performed at Saint Fest, another Catholic concert run by Campbell that is held in downtown Salem on Halloween. The purpose of Saint Fest is to celebrate All Saint’s Day.

"There's no better place to preach the Word than in Salem on Halloween," Ursino said at the event last year.

Campbell encouraged Ursino to apply for performing at World Youth Day. She did and over a year later she received good news. Ursino was one of about 200 artists who would perform over the weeklong event. Over 600 artists applied, she said.

"I just reassured myself that if God wanted me there then I would get there and if not, it just wasn't His plan," she said. "To my surprise they e-mailed me."

Ursino said she believes her mission is to reach out to young people through her music and through her experiences. She hopes that her message will “let them know that only with God will they be happy,” she said.

"The youth, their language is music," she added. "They listen, and it's something they can relate to, and if I can reach them with positive messages through music, then for me that would just be amazing. That's why I have a different sound. It's more electronica. It's a little more modern. It's not really praise and worship, yet the message is there."

Ursino is currently working on a new album that she hopes to release at the end of the year. It will have more of an organic sound but will still be focused on God, she said. Two of the songs will be in Italian, and Ursino will perform in Italy next summer. Ursino’s parents were both born in Italy, she said.

Ursino also hopes to perform at the next WYD in Australia in 2008.

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