By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Catholic recording artist Steve Angrisano admired the view as he stood on an outdoor stage, surrounded by sunset-lit cornfields and wildflowers. “I feel like I’m in the Field of Dreams movie,” he told the crowd assembled behind St. Mary Church in Solon.
For the second consecutive summer, Angrisano performed throughout Iowa in support of Mary’s Meals, an organization that feeds more than 2.2 million children a day at their place of education in 20 countries, primarily in Africa. He performed 11 concerts in 10 days, each concluding with eucharistic adoration.
In the Diocese of Davenport, four parishes hosted concerts. The Solon parish hosted Angrisano on Aug. 5. The following day, St. Mary Parish in Williamsburg hosted a concert in the park north of the church. Guests assembled in Oskaloosa City Park Square on Aug. 10 with support from St. Mary-Oskaloosa. A performance inside St. Thomas More Church in Coralville wrapped up the Diocese of Davenport’s leg of the tour.
“This view is just heaven,” Angrisano’s wife, Jenni, commented as she took photos of the crowd before the Solon concert. She was unable to join him last year and was grateful to be present this time around. Neil and Patty Erusha, members of the Solon parish, hosted the Angrisanos during their eastern Iowa stops.
Guests from throughout the state enjoyed the shows and the opportunity to make new friends and reconnect with old ones. Father Ken Kuntz, a retired priest, drove from Clinton to Solon with a couple friends. The eyes of Solon parishioner Courtney Mroz lit up when she saw Father Kuntz. She ran over to say hello with son Mason in tow. “Oh wow!” she said with a smile. “You gave me my first Communion!” Father Kuntz replied tenderly, “I remember you! You were just a little girl!” Father Kuntz was pastor of her childhood parish, St. Mary in Iowa City, when she made her first Communion in 1998.
Ellen Miller, U.S. regional coordinator for Mary’s Meals, spoke at each event, which was free, and encouraged guests to buy T-shirts or make free-will donations to support the organization. She said $21 is enough to feed a child nutritious lunches for one school year. Food provides extra motivation for children and families to prioritize school.
Miller’s son, Mike, spent 11 years in Africa working with the program and she had the opportunity to visit meal sites on several occasions. “It’s so much more than a cup of porridge,” she said, observing that Mary’s Meals program offers hope to children and families in impoverished regions. An education can help families break the cycle of poverty and parents are more likely to send their children to school if a nutritious meal is available each day.
After the concerts, guests and hosting parishes shared photos and reflections on social media. “Thank you for sharing your music with us tonight! Everyone had a great time,” read a post on St. Mary-Williamsburg’s Facebook page. Angrisano shared his sentiments on Facebook. “I have more energy than ever… truth, I’m actually exhausted! But also filled with hope and joy for all the beautiful experiences these last (several) days.”
Miller said the 11-stop tour raised enough money to feed approximately 1,239 children for one school year. “It felt like a pilgrimage across Iowa experiencing the best in what makes our Catholic faith and the state of Iowa so special,” she said.