08:55 AM

Sacred Music Alum Helps Catholics to WorshipNOW

Chris Nolin and Gabriel WanousMusic has always been a passion for Christopher Nolin ’19, VP of Relationship Management at WorshipNOW. 

Growing up in Vermont he played the trumpet, and even studied music at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont. It was there, at the urging of Jerome Monachino, associate director of Campus Ministry and Liturgical Music, that Nolin considered using his gift of music in a ministry setting.

“It wasn’t until an invitation from Jerome that I put two and two together that I could share my musical gifts with the Church,” Nolin said. “I really owe Jerome a lot to getting my ministerial life in the Church started from a musical standpoint.”

As a college student he began to work in local parishes, offering his musical services for the Vigil and Sunday morning Masses. It was that experience of working with local parishes that cultivated the seed planted by Jerome that eventually led Nolin to pursue music ministry as a career. 

Pursuing Music as a Career

As with many jobs in the creative field, the path was unpaved and filled with bumps. After college, Nolin worked full time in a corporate sales/marketing setting doing music ministry on the weekends to provide for his growing family. He followed this path for nearly 15 years when he took a leap of faith, moved his family from the Northeast to Texas, and took his first full-time position in music ministry at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Conroe, Tx.

“I am so grateful for the opportunity that Fr. Philip [Wilhite] gave me to be able to serve at Sacred Heart,” Nolin said. “I feel like I am truly doing what the Lord has called me to do.”

As a music minister, Nolin flourished, leading the nearly 8,000 family Parish in worship, writing Mass settings and continually searching for new, relevant music that would fit within the Mass setting.

To better serve his community, Nolin set out to acquire as much knowledge about sacred music as he could, an endeavor that led him to the University of St. Thomas where he earned his Master of Arts in Sacred Music.

Through the program, Nolin gained a greater understanding of sacred music, refined his craft and developed a deeper appreciation for the music and the artists producing it. 

The Creation of a New Catholic Hymnal

Nolin’s introduction to WorshipNOW was providential. While on vacation in Panama City, Fl., a parishioner at Sacred Heart heard a song at a local Church that really resonated with her. Upon returning to Conroe, she shared that she had seen it in the hymnal provided at the Church. Nolin had never seen that particular song in a hymnal so, his interest peaked, he called the Church in Florida and asked to speak to the music director. It was on the phone call that he met Gabriel Wanous, the founder of WorshipNOW. 

The two were kindred spirits.

“We had a several hour-long conversations about our lives, our experiences and our concerns about music in the Catholic Church,” Nolin said. “We thought it was providential, we were going through the same journey at the same time, just across the country.”

Both had left corporate jobs to pursue music ministry full time, both had four children and both were on a mission to find new, relevant music for their respective parishes.

A few months later Nolin and Wanous spent three days at a monastery together praying over what they should do.

“It became so apparent that we needed to do something,” Nolin said. “So we put our heads together and massaged the first version of the hymnal that Gabriel had made, and added songs I had done in my community. We wanted to make sure that this resource was not just complimentary or supplemental, we wanted to make sure that it could stand on its own.”

What ensued was a rigorous process of finding new songs, analyzing and testing the theology in the lyrics and rearranging songs to put them into liturgical keys.

Understanding how challenging it was to vett new songs as a music minister they wanted to produce a resource that people could trust was in accordance with Catholic teaching. 

So they submitted their hymnal to the USCCB for approval. 

“The wisdom I have acquired from this program I have been able to apply not only at the parish, but in the development of WorshipNOW,” Nolin said. “Being able to defend some of the truths that are in the Church documents and even just understanding the history of sacred music has opened up some new perspectives for me.” 

What Comes Next

Together Nolin and Wanous hope to dispel the idea that modern music does not have a place in the liturgy. Additionally they hope to foster growth and development for young, Catholic musicians who strive to produce great music for the Church.

“What we are trying to do is no different than what was taking place in the Renaissance,” Nolin said. “We need to remember that there was a time when even four-part harmony was frowned upon in Mass.”

Nolin will continue sharing his gift of music and has accepted a new position as the Director of Music at St. Thomas Aquinas parish in College Station.