“4 bands, 1 stage, rock the night! 1 message: proclaim the light!”
On Saturday evening, September 22, a multicultural community of Boston Catholics gathered in worship for the “Build the Faith Music Fest,” a concert in memory of Christina Dangond and benefiting her foundation, which builds churches in impoverished areas. At St. Mary of the Annunciation Parish in Cambridge, local Catholic musicians, including Ministério de Música Paraclíto, Higher Love, Katoli-k, and Jon Niven, led the congregation in multilingual worship.
“The idea for a concert came from a desire to celebrate our faith and to give praise and glory to God, and to do it in memory of Christina, who’d be dancing right alongside us tonight– and she will be, in heaven,” stated Rev. Michael Harrington, the pastor of St. Mary’s who first met Christina in 2012 and journeyed with the family through Christina’s battle with cancer for the next five years.
Christina’s mother, Monica Dangond, shared that “For Christina, God was first, and family was second. She would say that ‘We are here to do His will, I accept His will, and I can endure anything because He is by my side.” Her mantra was “Jesus, I trust in You,” and her father, Fernando, shared in his testimony onstage that she would ask the nurses to let her pray before they accessed her port for chemotherapy, then she would repeat this mantra before saying she was ready. After multiple remissions and relapses, Christina went home to be with the love of her life, Jesus, on January 26, 2018, at 11 years old. Fr. Harrington explained that “In the eyes of the world, her life might seem sad and tragic, but she lived her life to the full, even with the brief life she had, she lived with faith and hope.” She understood that people had come to God because of this cancer, and she accepted her cross with joy.
This joy was celebrated and noticed by all who gathered in Cambridge on Saturday evening. A stage was set up in the front of the sanctuary, and the church was packed, especially with youth and youth adults. Fr. Harrington opened in prayer, and the four bands played, intertwined with testimonies. The multilingual performances had the faithful, especially the youth, clapping, waving glow-sticks, and on their feet praising God. The final performer, Jon Niven, remarked that his “hope for the night is that we have a beautiful night of worship, but especially that we grow in understanding how other cultures worship our God, as we’re all part of this universal Catholic Church.” After Niven took the stage, the four bands played the last song together, then the congregation was encouraged to take candles and process across the street to a statue of Mary for a prayer vigil in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Haitian Creole.
It all started on December 12, 2012, on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, when the first stone of a church in Santa Marta, Colombia was laid. Seemingly unrelated, in Boston, seven-year-old Christina was diagnosed was a rare form of cancer. After seeing a video request from the Colombian priest who needed funds to complete the building of this church, while Christina was in treatment, she decided to use her time and talent to make rosary beads, which was the start of her Build the Faith Foundation. What started as a simple and beautiful desire to make rosaries to aid one Colombian church in need has grown to an impressive and impactful legacy of an incredibly inspiring 11-year-old. Mrs. Dangond explained that “when people on her website found out she was making these rosaries, they started to support her.” Now, hundreds of people have come to their home to aid in making and selling these rosaries, “but along the way we realized that the church is all of us, not just the building of physical places, but bringing the people to God,” Mrs. Dangond added. The foundation started hosting youth workshops, teaching in local schools and churches about Christina’s life and the importance of the rosary, during which children help make and sell the rosaries. Also, with the help of Fr. Harrington, the Build the Faith Foundation hosts retreats for men and women.
The witness of Christina’s life, the ongoing work of her non-profit, and the uplifting concert are sources of hope for us, and may we all continue to be inspired by her message of joy, putting “God first,” and trusting in Jesus in all things.