When Dawn Kinsman combines her faith with her musical talent, it’s more than the recipe for inspirational songs; it’s a vehicle for enhancing her faith and the faith of those around her.
Raised in Watertown, South Dakota, Kinsman, administrative assistant for the
UW-Milwaukee Newman Center, described her family as supportive and faithful Catholics.
“Without being preachy, they were living their faith out loud every single day,” Kinsman said.
Around the age of 13, Kinsman began playing contemporary music at Mass. From a young age, she had played piano, serving as a performance and rehearsal pianist, but music ministry resonated with her.
“I was engaging my heart more than the analytical working of the keys and my fingers,” Kinsman said.
Approximately two years later she was approached by someone in her church’s music ministry program who said, “Well, if you’re sitting there, you might as well sing something.”
“There was an incredible freedom in it,” Kinsman said. “I had the ability to worship with my hands, my voice, my heart, all my mind, soul and strength.”
As a junior in high school, she studied in Germany, and following her year of studies, apprenticed in a recording studio and toured with a band. Her time overseas gave Kinsman a glimpse of the business of the music industry, but it also solidified her love for music.
Returning from Germany, Kinsman’s faith life grew stronger. She began praying the rosary and offering prayers for world peace. Jesus became part of her everyday life.
She married Dave, and even though the couple was told they might never have children, they eventually welcomed five boys into their family.
Life of prayer and ministry
“Our life was prayer and faith and ministry,” Kinsman said about life in their family.
In the early years, Kinsman and her family lived in the upper house of a Catholic school in Aberdeen, South Dakota. She recalled her children playing in the school hallways.
“(Her sons) grew up in an atmosphere where Jesus was always there,” Kinsman said.
With her unfaltering faith and talent for music, Kinsman served local communities, but also the global church. In 2000, she sang a song she had recently written, “True Presence,” for World Youth Day in Rome.
“It was truly amazing and a little bit overwhelming,” Kinsman said. “The excitement and the love and the camaraderie was so amazing to me.”
She described that experience as a sign from God as she had not been invited to perform the way other speakers and guests were.
After being on the Eternal World Television Network (EWTN)’s show “Life on the Rock” and performing “True Presence,” a friend asked her to take his place performing at World Youth Day.
“It became so clear why I was supposed to be (in Rome),” Kinsman said.
She believes God was calling her to share the song about the beauty of the Eucharist with the global Catholic Church.
Happiness from Eucharist
Kinsman’s love for the Eucharist began as a young child. She recalled after receiving her first Communion, returning to her pew and crying. When Kinsman’s mother asked her why she was crying, her response was, “Mom, I’m just so happy.”
While later serving the church in Minnesota, Kinsman took a break from music. She calls this time “her desert,” where God was calling her to silence.
“I was appreciating the glory of the worship around me,” she said.
Kinsman now focuses on helping college students grow in faith and share their gifts.
“I feel like there is so much that needs to be shared with the next generation,”
Kinsman said when discussing her shifted focus in ministries.
Kinsman has also emceed the Worldwide Children’s Eucharistic Holy Hour at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. for the past several years — an event she described as “a global unification before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament” that promotes family and world peace.
Kinsman hopes to eventually pursue funeral music ministry because she believes it is an important way to share a person’s story and have an opportunity to be a witness of faith.
“Music,” she said, “is the language everybody speaks.”