Musician, youths write song in memory of Long Grove teen


By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

LONG GROVE — On Ash Wednesday of last year, St. Ann Parish was devastated by the news that youth music ministry member Scott “S.J.” Madden had died of injuries sustained in a car crash on his way to Mass.

S.J. Madden

As the first anniversary of the teen’s death approached, S.J.’s friends began working with composer and evangelist Jesse Manibusan to write a song in the 15-year-old’s honor. Manibusan, whose work has been published in Oregon Catholic Press hymnals, will premiere the song at the Long Grove parish during a March 7 concert.

The California-based Manibusan is a longtime friend of Don and Candy Boucher, who lead the youth music ministry group. The group sang Manibusan’s song, “Hold On To Love,” “with breaking hearts” the night S.J. passed away, Don Boucher recalled. The song was also sung at S.J.’s funeral. Hold On to Love became an anthem for members of the grieving parish community.


In the months following S.J.’s death, friends and loved ones wrote letters filled with memories as a way to cope. “It was important that we remember S.J. all year, as we tried to move on without him physically present,” said Candy Boucher. The Bouchers wondered whether Manibusan might accept a commission to work some of those memories into song.

“I was happy to do it,” Manibusan said. “Love got me involved; Candy and Don’s love of S.J.; the love of S.J.’s family and friends; the love of youth ministry; the love of S.J., and, dare I say, the love of Christ.”

Using hard copies of the youths’ letters, Manibusan began working on the song in December. He also placed S.J.’s name and the people of St. Ann’s in the prayer book he carries on his cross-country travels. The song took about two months to write. “I was just trying to put something together that is a reflection of this person’s life and faith.” He titled the song “It Is You.”

Manibusan, 60, found the process of writing S.J.’s song “the most moving” of any he has written in his 40 years of music ministry. He loves the lyrics “because they came directly from those who knew S.J. … In a way, S.J. wrote this song with his life.”

One of the lyrics, “Oh, your smile can turn a gray sky — into blue,” reflects the numerous comments Manibusan received about S.J.’s smile. Another lyric, “One day more,” is the title of a song in the musical “Les Miserables;” friends wrote that S.J. was a big fan of musicals. To honor S.J.’s Eagle Scout achievement, Manibusan wrote the line, “And like the eagle soars above, your life flows on with love.”

Manibusan was scheduled to head to the recording studio Feb. 20 to record two versions of the track – one with lyrics and one instrumental. He will bring copies of the tracks to the March 7 concert.

The process of getting to know S.J. through the words of his friends and family has infiltrated other areas of Manibusan’s work. While giving presentations at various conferences, he sometimes can’t help spreading the love of S.J. and those who knew him best. “Every story I share is from my experience, my lived experienced. S.J. is part of that story now. “

Jesse Manibusan concert

March 7 from 6-7 p.m. at St. Ann Church in rural Long Grove
Tickets can be obtained from members of the youth music ministry, the Faith Formation Office of the Diocese of Davenport, or by calling Candy Boucher at St. Ann Parish, (563) 285-4596.
Ticket cost is $10. Children 12 and under are free with the donation of one can of soup.

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