The group Voces Fidei is a quintet of seminarians that come from different parts of the country and share their love of music through a cappella. Phillip Shifflet of the Diocese of Orange, Greg Snyder from the Archdiocese of Seattle, John Hesla and Stephen Cieslak of the Archdiocese of Portland and I, Frank Villanueva from the Diocese of Honolulu, make up this diverse group of singing seminarians. We have joined our gifts and talents together to create one unique sound. The name of our group reminds us to excel and to always be a voice of faith.
|Voce Fidei: Stephen Cieslak, Gregory Snyder, Frank Villanueva, |
Phillip Shifflet, and John Hesla. Photo credit: Ivan Garcia
When I asked this group of men to be part of this singing group here on the hilltop, I never could have imagined how far this group would go. We started singing just for fun until one day our choir director, Mrs. Myrna Keough, heard us and asked us if we would be willing to put an a capella piece together and sing for the annual Seminary Benefit Dinner in Portland, Oregon. Since then we have been a part of the Portland Benefit Dinner and the Benefit Dinner held annually in Eugene, Oregon.
At celebration of the 125th anniversary of the founding of Mount Angel Seminary, the group was asked to sing during the program. The group was also asked to sing for various community events such as the annual Ambassadors of the Mount Angel Abbey Retreat House luncheon and the recent ordination of Br. Rito Guzman of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit. Voces Fidei also sang for the ordination dinner of Portland’s new Auxiliary Bishop, Peter Smith.
Our love for music and spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ through the ministry of music is a gift that will extend beyond this holy mountain. Stephen Cieslak said, “Voces Fidei is a group who sings for Christ and his Church. As priests we will be representatives of that Church, though we are now as seminarians too. Singing, glorifying God with voice is prayer in a unique and loving way. This [will] carry over into our ministry in celebrating the sacraments and ministering to the people, drawing them closer to Him who loves us.”
One of the common musical backgrounds that we all share is our musical experiences in various choirs and in our parish ministries. For instance, Greg Snyder was a part of his parish’s music ministry and sang for various choral groups before entering the seminary. These experiences all helped to put together this wonderful group of men who love to sing and make music for the Lord.
I started the group in 2012 as a way to continue my love of music, which has been a big part of my life since I was six. At the age of eight, I became a member of the Honolulu Boy Choir and remained until the age of thirteen. My love for music continued in my parish life as a cantor for three different parishes in my home town of Pearl City. In 2004, I became a member of one of Hawaii’s newest and hottest singing sensations, the “Fab 4.” The group sang melodies from the 50s and 60s, Broadway hits, contemporary Hawaiian music, impersonations such as Don Ho and Elvis Presley, and we featured songs from artists such as Earth, Wind and Fire, and Yvonne Ellemin.
Starting this group wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. It was tough to find others who are just as passionate and committed to the work needed to prepare such pieces for a cappella singing. These guys were a pitch perfect match. “Our voices mesh really well and we get along together too,” Hesla said. When I asked them what the differences were singing in a quintet group such as ours as compared to a choral group, Shifflet said, “You have to be more attentive to each other as not to single your voice out and sing to make it sound like one voice rather than many voices.”