What Would Be Your Parish’s “Go-To” Songs to Sing?

I posted recently about two issues that have made a connection for me: Singing as an Expression of Faith and my Pilgrimage in the Footsteps of St. Ignatius of Loyola. While on the pilgrimage at our stop in Avila, I encountered a group of pilgrims in the town square joyfully singing hymns and clapping their hands, a scene I have encountered before from groups of different ethnicities.

On the next bus ride, I lamented to my friend and colleague Tom McGrath that, up to that point, we had not done any singing as a group on the pilgrimage and that, in general, spontaneous singing is a lost art in Anglo culture. We decided to remedy that and so, from that point on, whenever our group gathered for Mass, Tom and I invited the group to sing some brief songs and refrains. Our first attempt was “Now Thank We All Our God,” but many of our younger pilgrims did not know the words from memory. At our next opportunity, we introduced a refrain that could be repeated Taize-like and learned spontaneously: “Take, O Take Me as I Am” and later, the popular Halle, halle, halle-luia!” The response was enthusiastic. In fact, after Mass, as we dispersed and headed for the bus, I heard a small group of our younger colleagues spontaneously break into “Here I Am, Lord.” I made a mental note and pulled that one out for our next Mass, confident that they knew the lyrics.

This, of course, got me to thinking: what if every parish staff sat down with the music director and drew up a list of 10–12 “go-to” songs that folks either know or could learn easily, and committed to singing one of these at EVERY parish gathering? The songs should be short, repeatable, snappy, and uplifting. (You may want to have two or three that are more “sedate” such as “Jesus, Remember Me,” for occasions that are more solemn.) Every parish organization would be asked to appoint one person who is capable of carrying a melody to initiate singing at every parish gathering.

So, here’s my question to you: if you were to compile a list of 10–12 “go-to” songs for your parish to sing spontaneously at any parish gathering, what songs/refrains would you choose?

About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.


  1. The Doxology.
    When I was in the choir, and would attend their potlucks, I would get chills when we sang it (in many voice-parts) before eating.

    We recently had a well-attended hymn-sing night, with 12 hymns from the hymnal, in several different categories by Season or theme or era. A list of slots was posted in the parish hall a few weeks ahead of time, and people’s suggestions were collected by the choir director. She researched the history of each selected song, tune, rhythmic pattern (6-8-6-8), or lyric and told about each one before we sang it. Fun!

  2. Love this idea! We use a similar concept for our summer family camping trip. At this family reunion, we share songs at our evening campfire. It’s great to see the next generation looking forward to a night of song. Fabulous idea for our parish community, thank you!

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