Music festival to raise money for mission trips to Jamaica

Friday, April 06, 2018 - Updated: 10:43 am

By JOHN FRANKO Staff Writer

Scythian, the award-winning Irish band hailed by the Washington Post as “One of Washington’s most energetic and electric bands,” will headline the inaugural Move a Mountain Music Fest April 6 at the Grand Hall at the Priory on Pittsburgh’s North Side.

The evening will benefit the Move a Mountain Missions, a newly-founded nonprofit organization that provides Pittsburgh youth with a genuine encounter with Christ through service to the most vulnerable in Jamaica. The evening of music and dance will include stories of how mission trips have impacted the lives of students.

Some of Pittsburgh’s top Irish musicians will also take the stage, including Mike and John Gallagher, and Jim Lamb of Guaranteed Irish. The fundraiser will be from 7-11 p.m. A VIP cocktail hour and buffet dinner will start 6 p.m. More than 600 are expected to attend.

Move a Mountain Missions works in conjunction with the Mustard Seed Communities in Jamaica and Pittsburgh. The local project has been spearheaded by Father Chris Donley, pastor of St. Raphael Parish in Pittsburgh’s Morningside neighborhood, and Dan Gallagher, a teacher at Central Catholic High School.

Gallagher’s association with the Mustard Seed communities in Jamaica began in 2007 when he spent five months doing mission work. His aunt, Janice Givens, had led a number of trips there and introduced him to the project. In 2016, Father Donley and Gallagher led a group of 17 people to Jamaica, and the number climbed to 26 last year. This year, a team of 50, including 38 students and 12 adults, will make the trip. Father Adam Potter, parochial vicar at St. Francis of Assisi in Finleyville, St. Issac Jogues in Jefferson Hills and St. Benedict the Abbot in Peters Township will join Father Donley as a chaplain to the group.

While the program began at St. Raphael and many students still come from there, they also come from St. Bede and Sacred Heart in Pittsburgh’s Point Breeze and Shadyside neighborhoods, St. James in Wilkinsburg, St. Therese in Munhall, St. Bernard in Mount Lebanon, St. Anne in Castle Shannon, St. Bernadette in Monroeville, St. Irenaeus in Oakmont and Resurrection in Pittsburgh’s Brookline neighborhood.

Gallagher pointed out that the trips are unique because they place an emphasis on encounter. Mustard Seed houses abandoned children who suffer from a range of physical and mental disabilities.

“There are work projects that we do at the homes, but the emphasis is on the encounter, holding the hand of a child who is wheelchair-bound, taking them for a walk, spending some time praying with them in the chapel,” he said. “They show us the way.”

For many of the students, he noted, it may be their first experience of being called to love somebody they are not naturally drawn to. There is a real joy, he said, in the experience of loving in a God-like way. 

The trips are centered on the Eucharist. There is daily Mass, and the homes have adoration chapels for students to spend quiet time. And by sharing meals and uniting in prayer they get an experience of authentic Christian community.

“It has led to powerful conversions for a number of our students,” Gallagher said.

Student stories and pictures from the trips can be found at www.MoveAMountain.org. Information on tickets for the music fest and donating to the project can be found on the website, or by calling 412-320-5627. This year’s trip is full, but information on future trips is available by e-mail at: info@moveamountain.org.

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