‘Be sealed with the Holy Spirit’

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Amanda Walker, music teacher at St. Joseph School in Madison, was received into Full Communion with the Catholic Church during the weekly All-School Mass on Friday, Sept. 8, at St. Joseph Church. Walker is confirmed by Father Jean Baptiste Kyabuta, pastor of St. Joseph Church. Photos by Katie Peterson

A love of music and singing has been a core piece of Amanda Walker’s life, and it’s through that gift given to her by God that she was led into full communion with the Catholic Church on Friday, Sept. 8, at St. Joseph Church in Madison.

Walker, who is in her second year as music teacher at St. Joseph School, first discovered her love of singing when she was 6 years old. By then, she had already been in and out of foster homes. Eight in all.

“I was always told you’re never going to make it. The statistics are very against you,” Walker explained. “I had a lot of half-siblings scattered around, and a lot of them really struggled. But I just always felt that God had a bigger plan for me.

“I was very active growing up in the (Methodist) church, and I feel like the church and music was my way of coping with all those different things,” she added.

After her birth mother passed away in 2012, she then decided it was time to take that next step and move from Nebraska to Nashville.

“I’ve been singing my entire life,” she said. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”

Dipping her toes in the water of Nashville, she received her degree from the University of Tennessee and continued singing when she could. Then, four years ago, she began nannying for a family and taking care of their little girl, Charlie Warnecke, who would eventually come to St. Joseph School for pre-kindergarten.  

“I became good friends with Charlie’s teacher, Jennifer Heeren,” Walker explained. “Jennifer called me the day the previous music teacher said they weren’t coming back.”

Although Walker was initially hesitant because she wasn’t Catholic, she gave Heeren permission to tell Amy Lavender, the principal of St. Joseph, about her. After some interviews and some persuading between Lavender and Father Jean Baptiste Kyabuta, pastor of St. Joseph, Walker started as the new music teacher for the 2022-23 school year.

“If it weren’t for Amy really pushing it, I wouldn’t be here,” Walker said.

Walker, stands on the altar with her sponsor, Tiffany Knight, vice principal of St. Joseph, as she prepares to make her profession of faith, while Father Jean Baptiste Kyabuta, pastor of St. Joseph, recites the initial prayer.

Since Walker came on staff, “the kids sing here like no other place I’ve ever been a part of,” Lavender said. “I know I have been very vocal, and a lot of staff members have been, too, that when we come to church and get to listen to her sing, which gets the kids singing, our own spiritual journeys are uplifted and enriched.”

It was in working with the kids and hearing them singing at the all-school Mass every week that ultimately led Walker to choose to come into full communion with the Catholic Church.

“Hearing the children sing, if that does not make you believe in something bigger, I don’t know what will. It’s just a different experience here at St. Joseph,” Walker said. “Our all-school Masses each Friday, they’re just amazing, and they just really make you feel the Holy Spirit when you’re in here.

“My favorite part of the week is doing Mass with them, and this is by far my favorite place I get to sing because of singing with the kids,” she continued. “Then, all the songs we sing, I’m the one that gets to teach them in their music classes, and it’s so wonderful having those conversations with even the little ones of, ‘What do you think this song means’ or ‘Why would we sing this song at this time?’”

Although she was nervous for this particular all-school Mass as she prepared to make her profession of faith, be confirmed, and take part in communion for the first time, she said having that community around her made it most special.

“It was so special to be able to have this moment with everyone,” Walker said. “That’s one of the things I think is so special about St. Joseph, is the community. I’ve become so close to so many parents and the teachers, and of course, the kids. To experience that with them was really special.”

“Father Baptiste has been so welcoming and supportive throughout my time here,” she added. “He made the effort every week to do one-on-one RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) classes with me, so that we could get to this day.”

Amanda Walker, music teacher at St. Joseph School in Madison, was received into Full Communion with the Catholic Church during the weekly All-School Mass on Friday, Sept. 8, at St. Joseph Church. Tiffany Knight, vice principal of St. Joseph, and Walker hug after the latter’s confirmation as the rest of the church applauds.

She also noted the support of Lavender and Tiffany Knight, vice principal of St. Joseph, who served as her sponsor.

“This has been such a long journey for Amanda, and I feel like this school and this church provides for her the community that she’s been seeking for a long time,” Knight said, noting Walker’s time in foster care until she was 18. “This place provides the love and the family that she’s always been looking for, so it’s been a journey and for that I am grateful for her and ecstatic for her.”

By making her “Yes” to the Church in front of the entire student body, Lavender, Knight, and Walker, all hope it becomes an example to the students of what it means to take the faith and claim it as your own.

“She’s just a great example to the kids on how to share their gifts and talents. Her talent for singing is clearly beautiful and such a gift for us to experience with her,” Lavender said. “For the students to be able to see someone worshiping God so openly, embracing and feeling that call to be part of this community and wanting to share it with her family here is a powerful thing.”

“They see her living in Christ’s image. They see her practicing her faith. They see how she sings at Mass,” Knight added. “They watched her walk through this journey this year, and it was important for her to make her first communion and confirmation in front of these children.”

“I hope they look at me and see that there is something more, and they can be involved,” Walker said, noting they have already been able to be involved by singing at Mass. “I’m sure I look silly up there singing because I’m just grinning so big at them, but I’m just like a proud mother of all these children when I hear them singing like they do.”

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