Singing for a saint: St. Germaine students write, compose and record 'Thank God Ahead of Time' (AUDIO)

David Taylor, music director at St. Germaine School and Our Lady of Hope Parish in St. Clair Shores, helped guide the St. Germaine praise and worship group, including members Veronica Paniccia (left) and Stella Drozdowicz, in writing, composing and recording the original song, "Thank God Ahead of Time.” (Photos by Michelle Samartino | Special to Detroit Catholic) 

Experience allows students to learn about Blessed Solanus, grow closer to God and one another

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Blessed Solanus Casey was known as, among other things, an aspiring musician. 

His fellow friars didn't always appreciate the humble Capuchin's decidedly average attempts to play the violin, but Blessed Solanus nevertheless loved to play, especially singing hymns to the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

In order to spread the word about Detroit's first “blessed,” students at St. Germaine School in St. Clair Shores have composed their own hymn in Blessed Solanus' honor, and even had it professionally recorded.

The idea for the song first came up during Blessed Solanus' beatification in November 2017, when students involved in St. Germaine's praise and worship group started meeting weekly for nearly a year to create it. The result was a song the group aptly named, “Thank God Ahead of Time.”

After having the original song professionally recorded, the group continues to sing it at school Masses and other special occasions. 

Creating the song was an act of love for eighth-graders Veronica Paniccia and Stella Drozdowicz, who each had solos in the song. They, along with other members of the group, were instructed by their music director, David Taylor, to write poems to help build their creativity that could be used as lyrics.

Stella was already familiar with Blessed Solanus, thanks to her 84-year-old grandmother, who knew him long ago. 

Stella Drozdowicz, left, and Veronica Paniccia are two of the eighth-graders at St. Germaine School in St. Clair Shores, who helped write the lyrics to “Thank God Ahead of Time," a song written about Blessed Solanus Casey.

“This song meant a lot to me; it’s special,” Stella said. “My grandma was close to Fr. Solanus and he affected her a lot when she came to Detroit.” 

Stella and her grandmother, Ethel Mae Kenny, remain close, and share a deep bond with their connection to Blessed Solanus.

“I feel very connected to Fr. Solanus, a lot,” Stella continued. “I’ve seen his picture, been to his casket and I’ve talked so much to my grandma about him.” It was through this musical experience that “I finally understood why he meant so much to me and my grandma. This is my heritage,” Stella said. “This is how I can be open to Jesus.”

Veronica said the project helped her grow closer to Christ, as well. 

“We did a lot of research about Fr. Solanus when we were writing the song,” Veronica recalled. “I learned how to be closer to God, and I saw how Fr. Solanus touched people’s lives.”

Taylor credits the worship group of 15 students with their dedication to the project, adding many came out of the experience with a deeper bond with one another and a deeper appreciation for Detroit's first saint. Discovering more about Blessed Solanus “really sparked an interest in the kids,” he said.

The song composition was completed in June 2018; four months later, thanks to one of Taylor’s connections, students were in the Detroit School of Pop & Rock to record the song.

Veronica has many fond memories of the process. “It was amazing to be there and do it,” she recalled. “Our principal (Julie Degrez) was so proud of us.”

St. Germaine music director David Taylor offers students Stella Drozdowicz, left, and Veronica Paniccia some pointers on the piano. Taylor said the students' experience helped them grow in knowledge and appreciation of Detroit's first saint.

Taylor was, too, and hopes the group can find more opportunities to perform the song for audiences. 

“This is a super talented group of kids,” he said.

What developed out of the nearly yearlong project was more than the song itself. Though the students will be moving in separate directions after they graduate from St. Germaine, they plan to remain close.

“Oh yeah, we will stay friends,” said Veronica, who will attend Chippewa Valley High School this fall. Stella, who will be a freshman at Bishop Foley High School in Madison Heights, smiled and agreed.

Taylor said the students will also be singing “Thank God Ahead of Time” on Torch Day, when the St. Germaine eighth-graders “pass the torch” to the seventh-graders at the end of the school year. While Stella and Veronica will be moving on, the praise and worship group has no signs of slowing down, with the sixth-graders already showing an interest in making their mark with their own songwriting.

Blessed Solanus once said, “We should ever be grateful for and love the vocation to which God has called us. This applies to every vocation because, after all, what a privilege it is to serve God, even in the least capacity!”

Being part of the group was an act of serving God for both Stella and Veronica, who both said writing and recording the song was an experience and memory they will always remember. 

“We had to work together to figure things out,” Drozdowicz said. “We had to unplug and focus on other things. This has been a cool experience.”

Listen to 'Thank God Ahead of Time'

Students who make up the St. Germaine praise and worship group in St. Clair Shores wrote the following lyrics to “Thank God Ahead of Time,” a song about Blessed Solanus Casey.

David Taylor, music director, welcomes any opportunity for the song to be performed by the students who created it. Members of the group include Gwen Block, Sam Chernisky, Kegan Coulston, Stella Drozdowicz, Cameron Fedenis, Lilly McCollum, Andrew Newton, Veronica Paniccia, Amanda Ploucha, Isabel Radtke, Charlie Shick, Jessica Sikora, Kenny White, Alex Wills and Autumn Wirick.

“Thank God Ahead of Time”

Solanus was a servant of God
Mary told him he must leave home
He came to Detroit to spread the Good news of the Gospel
He opened the door for the sick and the poor and said

You gotta thank God ahead of time
For the miracles around us
God’s love has truly found us
You gotta thank God ahead of time
For the miracles around us
All the time

He smiled brightly every day
Displaying God’s holy way
He loved God so he endlessly helped the needy
He opened the door for the sick and the poor and said

You gotta thank God ahead of time
For the miracles around us
God’s love has truly found us
You gotta thank God ahead of time
For the miracles around us
All the time