Michelle Garcia was not a churchgoer until her mid-teens, but once she made the connection to her faith, she embraced it with energy and enthusiasm.
Garcia, a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, is music director at Prince of Peace/Principe de Paz Parish, Milwaukee, and her parish’s choir will lead the congregation in song at the School Sisters of St. Francis’ annual bilingual Fiesta Mass on Saturday, Nov. 14, 4 p.m., in St. Joseph Chapel on the sisters’ St. Joseph Center campus, 1501 S. Layton Blvd.
“I met God when I was 16 years old,” she said. “Then, a friend of mine showed me how to play guitar, and in two months, I was playing Masses by myself. When I was 18 years old, I auditioned for the archdiocese’s (Guadalajara) Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and passed. I enjoyed myself there. Not even a year later, I came to this beautiful country and found a job at a psychiatric hospital here in Milwaukee. That was 14 years ago.”
Michelle has led a number of Milwaukee parish choirs, including St. Rafael the Archangel, Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Stanislaus, where she met her husband, Felix Osorio. At one time, the couple played at three churches – a commitment that eventually took a toll on their schedule. She concentrates her energies now at Prince of Peace, playing at all the Spanish Masses and at the bilingual ones when needed.
“Our choir does a lot of different things together. We’re like a second family,” she said. “We play at parish retreats and at other places where our services are required.”
According to Garcia, people often asked if the choir had a CD, “because they feel God’s love through the songs we sing,” she said. “We prayed about it and put something together. It took a lot from us – time, work and money – but it was well worth it.”
Released a couple of months ago, the CD features praise songs in Spanish that are most frequently requested. The CD will be available at the Fiesta for $12 and proceeds will help cover the cost of a future CD.
The music of Garcia and her choir will be one of the highlights of the Mass and the Fiesta, co-sponsored by the We Energies Foundation.
The family-friendly party from 5 to 8 p.m. includes food provided by Antigua Latin, El Cañaveral and Lopez Bakery; entertainment by Charanga Agozá, a salsa band from Madison; a “Day of the Dead” art exhibit in the convent’s Alfons Gallery; and art workshops for all ages. (O’Loughlin is coordinator of outreach events for the School Sisters of St. Francis.)