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Music, ministry unite in ArchOmaha Unite performer’s work

He recognized his passion for music and ministry at age 14.

Omaha musician Danny Leger, now 34, first expressed intentions to use music for evangelization while talking with a small group on his first youth retreat. 

He doesn’t remember what he said, but the memory is preserved in the journal he kept from that day. In it, a young girl had written, “Thank you for sharing what you did in small group. It was very inspiring to me.”

“The crazy thing is,” Leger said, “10 years later I married that girl and she’s still supportive of my music, my (song) writing, and my desire to use music to bring people closer to God.”

On June 8, Leger will perform at ArchOmaha Unite, the Archdiocese of Omaha’s summer unity conference, as part of the breakout sessions offered for seventh through 12th grade students. He hopes to demonstrate the joy of knowing Jesus and get young people excited about being missionary disciples, he said.

“It’s always been a desire of mine to try to help people encounter Christ using any means possible: retreats, mission trips, music, liturgy, the sacraments,” Leger said. “The youth need to have that personal encounter with Jesus and know their identity as sons and daughters of God the Father and know that the Christian life is a radical adventure.”

LOCAL MUSICIAN

Leger first started playing music in his parish, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Omaha, at age 16. He was inspired by his parents’ example and the influence of “growing up in a vibrant Catholic faith with beautiful liturgy,” he said. At the same time, he began attending youth conferences and retreats through organizations like Life Teen. 

Gradually, he found himself leading worship music in the same places that had formed his own faith. Soon, music developed into a career and became “his sharpest tool” in drawing others to the Lord. 

Leger has recorded two albums of original music, “The Other Side” in 2013 and “Go” in 2014. He has sold more than 2,000 hard copies of each album, which can be purchased at Gloria Deo in Omaha, St. Patrick Parish Center in O’Neill, or Norfolk Catholic High School. Songs can also be downloaded using the iTunes and Google Play stores or streamed via YouTube, iHeartRadio or Spotify. 

His latest single, “When I Am King,” was inspired by his own Marian consecration, a process in which he entrusted his life to the protection, guidance and intercession of Mary. On day 30, he got an image in his mind of Jesus as a little boy, promising his mother that when he is king, he will make her a queen, he said.

“I have three little boys and they promise their mother all sorts of things like they’ll clean their room and brush their teeth,” Leger said. “They’re not always telling the truth, but Jesus is perfect and so if he promises his mother the sun, the moon and the stars, he can deliver.” 

Danny and his wife, Jill, have five children: Matthew, 9, Andrew, 7, Benjamin, 5, Rosie, 2, and Julia, 11 months. They are members of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish. 

YOUTH MINISTRY

A large part of Leger’s ministry has been leading praise and worship music for retreats, youth conferences and eucharistic adoration. “What I hope is similar to incense,” Leger said, “that songs of praise and worship would help lift our hearts, our minds and our prayer to God.”

In 2018, Father Owen Korte, pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Hartington, commissioned Leger to perform as part of a Lenten faith rally for rural Catholic schools in northeast Nebraska. 

“Kids loved him, the grade school kids especially. (They) jumped up on the stage a couple different times and danced or sang with him,” he said.

Father Korte plans to invite Leger back for a similar event in 2020. “He’s very faithful in his own life and that comes through in his music,” he said. 

Musicians who have collaborated with Leger over the years have also benefitted from his faith-filled approach. One of them is Tom Theis. 

“I’ve played drums for a couple contemporary Christian bands,” he said. “When I found Danny, we got to playing together, (and) it’s been one of the greatest things that’s happened because I get to celebrate my Catholic faith with one of the things I love most, which is playing worship music.” 

GLOBAL OUTREACH

In addition to his music, Leger is the founder and director of a new nonprofit organization, Hope of the Poor, an apostolate focused on alleviating physical and spiritual poverty. Much of the proceeds from Leger’s performances now fund the organization. 

“Our mission is to bring the light of Christ into the darkest mission fields, to alleviate the poverty of being unloved, and to inspire all generations to radically live out the Gospel,” Leger said. The same objectives hold true for his music ministry, he said. 

Hope of the Poor was founded in 2016 and has missionaries in Nebraska, Alaska and Mexico City. They meet the needs of the poor in Mexico City by providing meals, clothing and basic necessities. They also strive to find meaningful work and safe housing for those they encounter on the streets, and seek to “build relationships that go beyond a donation,” he said. “We know their names, faces and stories.”   

His inspiration for the apostolate came from verses in the Gospels of Matthew and John. “Jesus said, ‘The poor will always be with us,’ (Jn 12:8) which is kind of a stark statement,” Leger said. “But for 2,000 years, it’s been true.”

“He also said that he’s with us in the least of these,” said Leger. “‘Whatever you do to the least of these, you do it to me’ (Mt 25:40). So for Hope of the Poor, that’s a huge positive. It’s Jesus promising us, ‘I will always be with you in the least of these.’ So really, the poor are a gift to us to encounter Jesus,” he said. 

Leger sees all his efforts as fostering the goal of sharing the love and hope of Jesus Christ. Whether it’s playing worship music for adoration or spending time in conversation with homeless teens, he strives to “help people of all ages encounter the living God through prayer, worship and service.”