Jarett Edwards: Kimball teen honored for gifts of service, song

Youth cantor Jarett Edwards has adopted the motto, “A song sung nice is like praying twice.”

Edwards often can be found cantoring at his home parish of St. Anne in Kimball, where he also is involved in teaching religious education, service projects and mission work.

YAYA winner Jarett Edwards, takes a break from preparing to sing for Mass at St. Anne’s Church in Kimball. (Photo by Paul Middlestaedt for The Visitor)

“I love the prayers that aren’t spoken, but sung,” Edwards said. “I don’t pray nearly as often as I sing, and when you sing for God, I believe that means much more. Words involve the mouth and larynx, but a song is different, because when you sing, it isn’t simply about the words on the page, it’s about the contents of your heart.”

Edwards was nominated for The Visitor’s YAYA awards — which stands for Youth and Young Adults awards — by the parish’s director of religious education and family friend, Betty Nystrom. Each month, The Visitor will select a winner, who will be featured in print and online. Edwards is this months winner.

“When he sings, whatever he sings, he puts his heart and soul into the music,” Nystrom said.

“Jarett is a very kind, thoughtful young man. He is very considerate of others and he is good at showing his appreciation of others’ kindnesses. One of his qualities is a willingness to try new experiences and give, whatever may come, his best shot, whether that’s Scouting, serving others or music.”

The 17-year-old had a rough start in life. He was born four weeks early and shortly after, he developed RSV, a virus that attacks the respiratory system and can become life threatening especially in babies born prematurely. For a time, doctors did not expect him to live.

His mom, Mary Ann, believes something special happened during that time, perhaps an “extra breath pumped into his lungs,” by the Holy Spirit that strengthened him and has gifted him with the ability to sing — a gift he shares regularly with his parish community at St. Anne’s.

“You’d never think he could sing. They told us he’d have asthma and be on a nebulizer for his whole life. So the fact that he can sing is pretty amazing,” Mary Ann said.

Jarett does a lot of things his parents never thought he’d do. In addition to the activities he is involved in with his church, he also is active in his school and community through FFA, the Boy Scouts and the Youth Chorale of Central Minnesota. He also works at his family’s restaurant, Mom’s Place, in South Haven.

Though he’s just beginning his senior year, he is already looking ahead to college and is considering attending St. Cloud State University.
“I don’t know what my major will be but I know I want to minor in music,” he said. “I want to continue to use this gift God has given me.”

But faith hasn’t always come easy for Jarett.

“After hearing about all that I have done, I am sure that [people] think I must have such a strong faith that I could never fall. I wish I could say that were true. If it weren’t for a handful of people in my life, I wouldn’t even believe in [God],” he said.

“I didn’t fall from some tragic event, I didn’t see a flaw in the ideals, I didn’t get mad at God. I became an atheist in the simplest way possible, by letting the world close my eyes,” he said. “I became too involved with the modern world that I forgot who even created it.”

Jarett said he tried to “fill a void that just couldn’t be filled.”

“One night, I couldn’t sleep [and] at 5 a.m. I found myself praying. I honestly don’t remember much of that prayer, but I do remember praying for an angel,” he recalled.

About that same time, nearly two years ago, his parish was planning a mission trip to the Red Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota and Jarett didn’t want to go. But when someone else backed out of the trip, he was given an option to fill the spot.

“I figured that this was what I prayed for,” he said. “I didn’t know it right away, but it was at the mission that I met my angel. We have been best friends ever since.”

Nystrom noticed a change in Jarett and when he went back to Red Lake for the second time, she said that’s when his leadership qualities emerged.

“Being one of only three of us who made the trip the year before, Jarett was great about stepping in with explanations and advice for the rest of the group,” she said.

“He was good at leading by example, being more than willing to jump in to work, or play with the summer school students, do chores or volunteer for leading the music at Mass.”

The experiences and people God has placed in his life have helped him grow spiritually.

“It is important to believe, because no matter where you go, your faith is the one thing that stays with you,” Jarett said.

“It is the one thing you can believe in when all else fails. People, cars, buildings and nature have all failed me at one point or another but God never has,” he said. “If anything, hope for a better day. Where there is hope, there is faith. In faith is God — the one who created everything, including the answer to your problem.”

About Jarett

Age: 17
Grade: 12
Hometown: Kimball
Parish: St. Anne
School: Kimball Area High School
Occupation: Dishwasher/cook at Mom’s Place family restaurant
Book on your bedside: The Good News Bible that I got at my TEC retreat.
A saint who inspires you: St. John the Disciple
Favorite app: Believe it or not, I don’t have a smart phone so my favorite app is Google Chrome because I can get anywhere I need from there.
A pizza isn’t perfect unless it has: Pineapple
If you could be a superhero or cartoon character, you would be: Dr. Strange
Favorite Bible verse or story: My favorite Bible story is the story of Job, because no matter how hard the devil tried to break him, he never stopped believing, no matter how hard it was.
You couldn’t drive by which restaurant without stopping: The restaurant I wouldn’t drive past without stopping would have to be Pizza Ranch. It’s great food and I love pizza.
Your favorite thing about being Catholic is: My favorite thing about being Catholic is that it is such a large denomination. I can go to Thailand, halfway across the world, and still experience the same kind of Mass and the same kind of worship even if I don’t understand the language.

Let your voice be heard
As dioceses prepare for the 2018 Synod on Young People, the Faith and Discernment, The Visitor asked Jarett Edwards to answer a few questions about his relationship with the church and what he would say to Pope Francis if he had the chance.

Q: What is one gift you think you bring to the church?
Edwards: My voice. I sing as often as I can, for just about everything.

Q: What is one gift the church could give you?
Edwards: I don’t really know, the church has given me so much. I needed a place to practice and fine tune my singing, and my church was that place. I wanted to travel, so I went on a mission trip. I wished to better understand how the world works, and I was confirmed. I needed a friend, and God provided an atheist, so that I may fulfill a promise I made to myself, to convert a soul from darkness to light. Everything that I have ever needed that I could not get on my own, the church was somehow there to provide it. The only gift the church can provide is what it always has, a place where I belong.

Q: If you had the opportunity to talk with Pope Francis, what would you tell him?
Edwards: I would tell him that I would like to go fishing with him. That way he can tell me which side to cast the net. Who knows, maybe we might fill the boat?

A survey is available for anyone ages 16-29 who wishes to provide feedback to the Vatican for the synod: https://survey-synod2018.glauco.it/limesurvey/index.php/147718.

Nominate someone!

To nominate a youth or young adult — ages 15-39 — for the YAYA awards, visit www.stcloudvisitor.org and click on the “YAYA Awards” button to fill out the nomination form. Or call 320-251-3022 to have a form mailed to you.

YAYA nominees  should be enthusiastic about their Catholic faith, set a good example for their peers, and be active in their parish.
Each month, a panel from The Visitor will select a winner, who will be featured in the print edition and online.

Author: Kristi Anderson

Kristi Anderson is the editor of The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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