After a long day of traversing the dusty roads in the Dominican Republic, Father Keith M. O’Hare, pastor of San Jose Church in Pedro Santana, appreciates some down time. The former jazz musician can be found sitting in the church or an empty classroom playing his guitar and composing music.
“When I write a song I don’t have any control over it,” said Father O’Hare. “I start strumming the guitar and the words start coming out of my mouth without any effort.”
“These songs are the fruits of life experiences and prayer so I hope that it contributes to people’s prayer life and gives them encouragement and inspiration for their day”
Father O’Hare’s interest in music started long before he donned a roman collar. He was in a rock band in high school, studied saxophone in college and played in a band before entering the seminary. While his songwriting had to take a back seat to focus on his new vocation, he was pleased to find a place for music in his ministry after being transferred to Bánica, the diocesan mission in the Dominican Republic.
“I don’t like the idea of a priest performer so it took me a while to share it,” said Father O’Hare.
With the help of his brother, Sean, Father O’Hare recently recorded a CD at the Hobo Audio Company in New York City. The seven-song album is both reflective and meditative with a mix of jazz and acoustic guitar. Religious themes and Dominican influences can be heard throughout.
“Being in a mission gives you a perspective on life,” said Father O’Hare. “The song ‘All Is Well’ is kind of the attitude that all Dominicans have.”
The song “Love God, Love People” was inspired by a chance encounter with a little Dominican girl named Francia. Before the song, Father O’Hare tells the story of how Francia asked him for a doll, even though she lived in a dirt house, had old clothes and was probably going hungry.
“She asked me for a doll, and what is a doll for? It’s for loving. It’s for practicing loving.”
Back at the church, Father O’Hare thought of little Francia and started singing “Love God, love people. Don’t love things cause they can’t love you back,” the refrain for a new song with a simple yet powerful message.
One of the songs with special significance to Father O’Hare is “Glory With Me,” a song about the transfiguration.
“I was at Our Lady of Angels in Woodbridge and a young lady came to me for counseling. She had been assaulted when she was 15. This really messed her up and she tried to commit suicide. Unfortunately I hear so much of this. So many victims have told me (the same) story. For some reason I said, “You know, I’m so sorry, there are no words for the pain. If I could write a song someday and He could be singing to you, what would you want Him to say?’ She said, ‘I would just want to know that He was with me.’”
Father O’Hare never forgot that moment.
“Seven years later I’m in Bánica just strumming and ‘Glory With Me’ just starts coming out of my mouth and as I’m listening to it I realize that this is the song. I am with you. Your suffering has meaning and your suffering is the way to glory,” said Father O’Hare.
The album titled “All Is Well” was released Jan. 30. A portion of the proceeds will go directly to the diocesan mission in Bánica.
“These songs are the fruits of life experiences and prayer so I hope that it contributes to people’s prayer life and gives them encouragement and inspiration for their day,” said Father O’Hare. He has more songs ready to go and hopes to release another CD inspired by Bánica’s upbeat and colorful culture.
Buy the CD
Go to fatherohare.com or email Carmen Lane at firstname.lastname@example.org.