[dropcap type=”4″]C[/dropcap]raig Colson has spent most of the last 20 years inside Catholic churches. It wasn’t always like that though. Growing up in Suffren, New York, he dreaded going to church. Mostly, he said, it was the music he abhorred.
That changed in 1987 when the family moved to Arizona and joined St. Maria Goretti Parish. The contemporary music there captured Colson’s attention and soon he was playing Masses himself.
Though his first two years in the parish youth group were mostly centered around the softball team and playing music, by his junior year, Life Teen was launched at the church.
“That’s what changed my life,” Colson said. “That’s when I really started discovering who God was and got into my faith.”
Parish: St. Jerome, Phoenix
Apostolates: Music and liturgy director; music teacher
Hometown: Suffren, New York
Family: Wife, Kristen; daughter, Kayla, 15; son Matt, 11
What keeps him going: The faith that God has always taken care of us — He has never let us down. He is faithful and has never abandoned us.
What he loves about being Catholic: First and foremost it’s the Eucharist, but also the communion of the saints. We have so many different saints that we can make connections with or ask to pray for us, so it’s not just our prayers alone, but also a communion of saints.
What he likes to do in his spare time: I like to spend as much time as I can with my family. Besides my family, I would say there is not much else, but my passion is when I can help people with liturgy or with music.[/quote_box_left]
Life Teen, he said, showed him that he needed to make changes in his life and what he was living for. During his college years, he stayed involved with the group as a member of the core team. “I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without Life Teen,” Colson said.
What he’s doing is impressive. Colson, who plays the guitar, piano and drums, has served at parishes around the Diocese of Phoenix, from St. Theresa and St. Bernadette to Christ the King and St. Thomas the Apostle and beyond. He writes his own music and his wife, Kristen, a vocalist, collaborates. The couple wrote a collection of Psalms for Oregon Catholic Press. Colson is published by World Library and also gives workshops and concerts. In June, he spoke to youth ministers at the national Life Teen conference in Scottsdale.
Last month, Colson took on the job of music teacher two days a week at St. Theresa Catholic School in Phoenix. In a sense, he said, he’s come full circle, since it was at St. Theresa’s where he began working as a music director 20 years ago.
He sees music as a way of evangelizing people young and old alike. “When you sing music that is relevant to what is going on in people’s lives, whether it’s hurt or pain, it touches an emotion in them,” Colson said. “My hope is that after Communion time, when we have God’s physical presence inside us, that it touches a depth in our soul and that we cry out to Him and realize He is present and He’s going to take care of us.”
Colson also uses his gift of music outside the walls of the church. He’s in a band that plays at a restaurant near the Cardinals’ stadium in Glendale, but even there, Colson finds a way to share the Gospel message, albeit in subtle form.
“It’s funny the conversations that happen when I play in a place like that,” Colson said. Inevitably, people come up afterward and ask him where else he plays. They’re often surprised when he tells them that it’s a Catholic church.
“It’s a great opportunity to witness because some of those people will never set foot in a church,” Colson said. Others are former Catholics who tell him why they no longer practice the faith. The casual conversations are a way of planting seeds. “Hopefully we can turn them on and bring them back,” Colson said.