In the urban center of Overland, Missouri is Presentation Arts Center (Presentation), an outreach ministry of Our Lady of the Presentation parish. Once an empty old convent, it has transformed into a community center for a diverse, working class neighborhood population.
Last year, Daughter of Charity Sister Brenda Fritz began a brand new initiative at Presentation – an after-school music ministry, offering free music classes to students from low-income families. A study conducted last year revealed that the parish needed to be more involved in youth, so she took the reins.
Sister Brenda worked in social work and administration the first 25 years of her community life. She says it’s especially exciting now to be able to explore her passion and do music ministry full time.
“Music has always been an anchor in my life – it’s one of those really constant things,” Sister Brenda said. “It’s very exciting to be on the ground level and start a ministry from the ground up. I love building relationships with the students and their families, and I love the opportunity for community outreach. I [also] love the vision, which is to become a community impact project.”
Sister Brenda teaches piano lessons after school, and has recruited several high school students to volunteer their time to teach piano, violin and guitar lessons to students age 6-16 years old. The program is free and targets low-income kids.
“In the case of our young people, music can really save lives, if they can get engaged in something that they really love and are passionate about,” Sister Brenda said. “I think the thing we teach here, more than music lessons, is life lessons. How to be on time, how to care for an instrument, the discipline of practice, how to call when you’ll be late, attendance, being responsible, etc.”
Sister Brenda says it’s a beehive of activity from after-school time to dinner time every day. Overall, 28 students are currently enrolled in the music program.
“When I was asking one of our high school volunteers, a piano teacher here, to talk at our first concert and exhibit, he said the thing he appreciates most about the Presentation Arts Center is the variety of instruments, but we also offer students a sense of belonging and community.”
The music program will celebrate its one-year anniversary in September 2017! Watch Sister Brenda talk more about her new music ministry in this video.